Former Wallaby Peter FitzSimons says Israel Folau stood no chance of captaining the Wallabies during the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
Folau is embroiled in a bitter legal dispute with Rugby Australia after his multi-million-dollar contract was terminated following his controversial social media post in April stating homosexuals are destined for hell unless they repent their sins. The former Wallabies fullback is arguing that his termination was a case of religious discrimination.
As part of his raised A$14-million claim from the original A$10m, Folau now says that he was robbed of the chance to lead the Wallabies during the World Cup in Japan. Potential earnings from match performances and sponsorship have been included in the claim. He has also argued that the Wallabies could have achieved a ‘superior performance’ and gone further into the tournament had he been part of the squad.
Outspoken former Wallaby and rugby writer FitzSimons strongly disagrees with Folau.
‘It just gets ever more absurd,’ FitzSimons said on TVNZ. ‘From a distance, I just thought, “What? Captain?”… but Michael Cheika, who was the Wallabies coach of course, he moved through seven vice-captains.
‘The last time Australian rugby had a fullback as captain was in 1980. It was Paul McLean, it was one Test, and after that the theory in Australian rugby was that fullback was too far from the main game to be the captain, so the tradition in Australian rugby is we don’t have a fullback as a captain. I find the claim absolutely absurd.’
The facts do support FitzSimons’ argument. In the history of Australian rugby, only one player led the Wallabies in more than one Test and that dates back to the 1930s. In 643 Tests, the Wallabies have only been captained by a fullback on seven occasions.
Looking at the picture as a whole, in the 310 Test matches in the professional era, Australia have never been captained by a fullback. Ironically, Wales fullback Gareth Thomas, who came out as homosexual in December 2009, has lead a tier-one team the most in the position.
Only one full back has captained Australia more than once in the entire history of the Wallabies. That was in the 1930s.
Australia have played 643 tests. They have been captained by a full back in 7 (1.1%). The last time was in 1980. https://t.co/zxt70SwfVj
— Simon Gleave (@SimonGleave) November 27, 2019
Added to this, Folau had never captained a team during his professional career, while Cheika said that he would not select Folau for the Wallabies and captain Michael Hooper admitted it would be difficult to play alongside him again.
The 30-year-old also made headlines by linking Australia’s recent bushfires and droughts to Australia’s stance on same-sex marriage and abortion.
‘It doesn’t have the closest grip on reality and I worry about that kind of stuff,’ FitzSimons added. ‘If he actually believes that, then I respectfully submit his remaining friends need to sit him down, give him a hug and say, “C’mon mate, we’ve got to get you some help here. This is not real.”‘
Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images