Rugby union's global showpiece kicks off in Tokyo in 18 weeks. It's possible, given the intractability of both sides, that the Israel Folau saga won't be resolved by then. It's possible, too, that the Rugby World Cup will be tainted by it in some way.

As we know, Folau has been found guilty of a breach of his Rugby Australia contract after posting a message on social media stating that homosexuals and others in a diverse list - also including drunks, liars, atheists, and idolators - will go to hell if they don't repent.

It was at least his second such message and it came after a warning from Rugby Australia that another would result in disciplinary action. There has been some speculation about the exact details of his contract. He has nevertheless been found guilty by RA but he will almost certainly appeal any sanction, meaning a new hearing with a new independent panel.


At the weekend, his Sydney church posted a video of him preaching a message which suggests he will not back down.

God has spoken to him, Folau said, and the Wallabies and Waratahs fullback will not be coming to a settlement with Rugby Australia or take an opportunity that, he added, would "potentially make the situation a little bit easier. I could go back and play the game, get everything back to the way it used to be".

It is clear this won't be resolved any time soon, because it is becoming a debate about free speech and religious freedom, and the battle lines more entrenched.

"The way Satan works is he offers you stuff that could look good to the eye and makes you feel comfortable, and if you follow that path all the worries and troubles will go away," he said.

"[But] it is always the will of God that comes first."

It is clear this won't be resolved any time soon, because it is becoming a debate about free speech and religious freedom, and the battle lines more entrenched.

Many of Rugby Australia's sponsors, including major backer Qantas, will support the organisation on the basis it continues its tough stance. Yet there is support too for Folau, including from the Pacific Islands community.

After the recent Rebels v Reds match in Melbourne, a group of mainly Polynesian players from both teams gathered in the middle of the AAMI Stadium pitch in what appeared to be a prayer.

It has been reported that Folau has contacted Pacific Islands players from each of the four Australian Super Rugby teams to ask for their support.

Va'aiga Tuigamala, the former All Blacks and Manu Samoa wing, contacted the Herald recently to lend his support to Folau.

Tuigamala hoped Folau would be judged on his playing ability rather than the expression of his religious beliefs, and urged both sides to come to an agreement. He mentioned the upcoming World Cup in Japan, where a collection of 20 nations - including Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, countries with a strong Christian heritage - will gather to contest the William Webb Ellis Trophy in what he hopes will be played in the true spirit of game; fair play, inclusion and friendliness.

Tuigamala's message was unsaid, but clear: There will never be total agreement over Folau's actions and probable sanction, but all rugby supporters, no matter their beliefs, hope that the World Cup isn't overshadowed as a result.