Israel Folau says the torrid period surrounding his comments about gays has taught him a lot despite coming close to giving up on rugby union.
The deeply religious Wallaby caused an uproar in April when he said on social media that God’s plan for gay people was hell unless they ‘repented for their sins’.
Folau was brought before Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle to explain his views, leading to speculation he may return to rugby league with his Wallabies contract expiring.
However, after signing a new long-term deal with the Wallabies, Folau opened up about his controversial comments.
‘It’s a bit of a rollercoaster year for me, more so off the field with what’s been happening but, to be quite honest, it might sound a bit crazy, but I kind of really enjoyed what was happening off the field,’ Folau told members of the media in Japan.
‘Not that it happened on purpose, but my identity is based around my faith in God … it was actually moulding me into becoming stronger and taught me a lot of things that I needed to learn, and I’m still learning now.’
Several of Folau’s teammates and opponents criticised his comments, but the 29-year-old said he respected the fact that many people do not share his beliefs.
‘I totally understand everyone else’s view,’ he said. ‘They are obviously different to mine and I respect that. It doesn’t change how I look at that person.
‘What I don’t want to do is compromise what I believe in. Being true to my faith in God, I’m always going to follow that.’
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