Rugby Friday Five: Folau doco shines light on dark days, Abbott slams RA's Voice stance

With so much going on around the grounds each week in the rugby world, it's easy for some of the interesting, fun and crazy stories to slip through the cracks.

These are some of the stories you might have missed.


Interviews with former coaches and teammates have revealed just some of what was going on behind the scenes during the Israel Folau saga that took place four years ago.

Part one of the hotly anticipated Folau documentary finally dropped during the week extensively covering the saga that saw Australian rugby's biggest star dropped from the game for posting homophobic views on social media with Michael Cheika, Samu Kerevi and former Wallaby Toutai Kefi revealing their thoughts on the controversy.

Folau's coach at the Waratahs and the Wallabies Chieka revealed he was "aggressively confronted.. many times" by the public during the saga that dogged Australian rugby in 2019 while he said it also hit his team hard as they prepared for a World Cup in Japan.

"That was really difficult time for the team. Really difficult," Cheika said. "I was confronted in the street aggressively, many times by people. I imagine that was happening to players as well."

Kerevi, Folau's Wallabies teammate, revealed just how divisive the situation was with the sporting body pressuring players not to make statements but allowing those who didn't support Folau to talk to the press.

"We got told not to say anything about supporting Izzy or saying anything at all. But everyone that didn't support him was all over the news," Kerevi said.

"They were interview. They were allowed to say they didn't support the message.

"People are going to court for whatever, and they're not getting sacked. If someone [commits] domestic violence he's okay to play, but someone that's posted something that was in the Bible, no, let's not play on."

While Folau didn't feature in the documentary or give permission for it to be filmed, documentary director Nel Minchin said he believed it was a delicate story that needed to be told.

"Ultimately its's a very sad story," Minchin told the Guardian.

"It cost [former Rugby Australia CEO] Raelene Castle and [ex-Wallabies] Michael Cheika their jobs, derailed the Wallabies' 2019 World Cup campaign, cost millions of dollars in legal fees and bad press and left a lot of innocent people cowering in a corner for all the hate speech it unleashed.

"I don't want to reopen old wounds... we've taken so much care and time to achieve the opposite.

"But the issues this case brought into the light are even more relevant today, so it's time to revisit the firestorm and have the conversation."

Part two of the documentary is to air next week.


Rugby Australia has become just the latest sporting body to announce its backing for the Indigenous Voice to parliament referendum, releasing a statement on social media on Thursday stating it's time for a "level playing field".

But while many on social media have applauded their decision, just as many have called out the sporting body for entering the political sphere with former Prime Minister Tony Abbott slamming RA's decision, saying the body "should have known better" than to support the yes vote at the referendum.

A former rugby player from Sydney Uni, Abbott took to social media stating RA was the "latest sports body to succumb to moral blackmail".

RA formalized its position on the issue stating "the Voice is not about division. It's about union."

RA joins all four football codes who have publicly backed the yes vote including the NRL and Australian Olympic Committee, with Cricket Australia and Netball Australia expected to formalise their stances soon. However, Abbott saved his denouncement for RA.

Former Wallabies flanker turned politician David Pocock rubbished any suggestions politics had no place in sport and said to follow that belief would be to ignore history.

"Given RA's leadership on tackling homophobia, being the first football code to have an inclusion policy, then their support of marriage equality, I'd be very surprised if they don't support the Voice," Pocock told AAP.

"Players and fans have loved including Welcome to Country before Test matches and playing in the Wallabies' Indigenous jersey.

"There's a long history of sport playing a role in social change, a history of sport having an active role in these conversations and challenging society to think about issues."


An unnamed player from Perth club rugby has been handed a 96 week, or almost five years, ban after he was found guilty of deliberately assaulting a referee during a game in Western Australia's top tier competition in April.

Rugby WA confirmed the Bayswater player had been issued the suspension following the side's Premier grade clash with Associates on April 22 with video showing the player deliberately hit the referee from behind during play.

The referee, Ian Sunderland, believed it was accidental and took no action on the pitch, however, witness statements and video determined it was a deliberate act and on April 26 the player was cited by RugbyWA.

Under World Rugby's Law 9.28 the highest possible sanction for physical abuse of a match official is 96-week suspension. The punishment was handed down on May 2 with the appeals period expiring last week.

In a statement RugbyWA said: "Due to the high-end and deliberate nature of the offence, a sanction of 96 weeks -- effectively almost five years -- was handed down."

The incident comes just weeks after a football referee in Sydney's suburban competition was assaulted by a player who attended as a spectator, leaving his jaw broken in three places. The whole Greenacre Eagles team was withdrawn from the competition as a consequence.

Should RTS return to NRL now?

Former All Blacks and Blues coach Sir John Kirwan has called for Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to make his return to the NRL early after the 29-year-old signed a deal with the New Zealand Warriors for next year.

Switching from the 13-player code at the end of 2021, Tuivasa-Sheck has struggled to make the same impact in the 15-player game with setbacks including COVID lockdowns and injuries scuppering his chances of success.

While he's impressed in spells for the Blues, injuries have meant he's struggled to find continued form, and found little game time when he was called up into the All Blacks squad at the end of 2022. With the clock ticking ahead of the World Cup, RTS found himself left out of the Blues 23 completely last weekend.

Speaking on Sky Sport's The Breakdwon Kirwan believes an early exit from union wouldn't be a failure for the centre.

"If Roger feels like he's got going to make the All Blacks, or he's not getting the opportunities and he goes back to the Warriors next week, it's a win-win for everyone," Kirwan said.

"It's not a failure, it just didn't work. He's still an All Black, he can take that.

"He's had a lot of bad luck, but if he was playing for the Warriors in the next couple of weeks, it's just a win-win."

The situation is reminiscent of former NRL star Benji Marshall's time at the Blues, which saw Kirwan, the Blues coach at the time, forced to discuss the player's options.

"I lived through this with Benji Marshall -- it was one of the hardest conversations I had to have as a coach," Kirwan said.

"It just wasn't working the Blues, me and Benji. It was a horrible conversation, but he said 'JK, I'm not going to drop down to the second side, I want to go back to rugby league'.

"I said go, and it was done in a week, and he went back."


It's not rugby news from Australia or New Zealand but the fall of English Premiership giants the Wasps to essentially the "bottom of the playing pyramid" is big news after the club entered administration last year.

Both the Wasps and Worcester were dramatically expelled from this season's top-flight Premiership, reducing the league from 13 to 11 teams, after they both entered administration in October. But it's gone from bad to worse for the Wasps after their license to play in the second-tier Championship next season was revoked.

The RFU gave Wasps' new owners, HALO22 limited, permission to play in the Championship provided they met certain conditions. But they've now been sent tumbling down to 10th tier English rugby after failing to prove the club could still operate.

Wasps told RFU they were unable to recruit staff or players until additional finance had been secured and so could not commit to playing in the Championship.

"This is not the outcome anyone in rugby wanted and also those involved with the club will be deeply disappointed," RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said in a statement.

"We have worked with the new owners for the past six months to try to ensure that a robust plan could be put in place for the club to continue to play in the Championship while players and staff could receive monies owed to them."