Director of rugby Scott Johnson has backed Rugby Australia’s stance over Israel Folau’s social media post in which he said “hell awaits” gay people.

Folau, 30, has appealed against his sacking and his future will be decided at a code of conduct hearing on 4 May.

Ex-Wales coach Johnson said rugby should “include everyone” and he was privileged to help Gareth Thomas come to terms with his sexuality.

“It goes beyond rugby. This is human relationship,” Johnson said.

Johnson was an assistant coach with Wales and a caretaker in the head role for two Tests in 2006. He was also director of rugby at Ospreys during his time in Wales.

Ex-Wales and British & Irish Lions captain Thomas came out in 2009, two years after playing the last of his 103 tests, but confided in Johnson that he was gay after a 29-29 draw with Australia in Cardiff in 2006 when Johnson was assistant with the Wallabies.

Johnson said he remained with the Wales camp to help Thomas talk to his team-mates and coaches.

“I want to make it really clear – I’m very supportive of where Rugby Australia is in this stance,” report Reuters.

“We want a game that includes everyone.

“I’ve had kids that have come out of addiction issues and I was also very, very privileged and honoured to be … the person that Gareth Thomas needed to talk to about his sexuality.

“I was coaching the opposition and I got called into the (Wales) change room because he wanted to talk to me,” Johnson recalled on Wednesday.

“I spent the next 24 hours off-site in the opposition’s hotel talking to his team mates because he couldn’t, nor his coaching staff and his management.

“It goes beyond rugby. This is human relationship. I had a kid that I absolutely loved to coach, I loved what he stood for.”

Thomas later revealed in interviews that he had contemplated suicide as he wrestled with his sexuality and Johnson said rugby had helped the Welshman out of a “dark period”.

“You don’t coach just to win trophies, you coach to make people better and that’s why I’m in the sport and I’m passionate about it,” he added.


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