New South Wales Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson admits it will be a sad day for rugby if Israel Folau is sacked.
The Waratahs and Wallabies player is expected to learn his fate this week, possibly as early as today, after being found guilty of a high-level breach of Rugby Australia’s professional players’ code of conduct following his controversial social media posts.
Termination of his four-year, $4 million contract seems most likely, rather than a fine or suspension, after Folau rejected a peace offering from Rugby Australia to remove the posts.
Gibson has coached Folau since he switched from league to union in 2013 and while he wouldn’t predict what sanction awaits Folau, he expressed regret that the whole affair had escalated so dramatically to a point of seemingly no return for the dual international.
It was barely a month ago that Folau became Super Rugby’s all-time leading try- scorer after crossing for his 60th five-pointer for the Waratahs against the Blues in Auckland.
“Obviously I think he’s an incredible talent. That’s probably what’s been lost in this, is the fact potentially he’s going to be lost to the code,” said Gibson, adding that he expected several of Folau’s NSW teammates to reach out, and even visit the suspended star, to support him.
“Israel is still a teammate. We still care for him and that will continue.
“There is still a range of options still on the table for him and we’ll learn his fate this week.
Gibson, though, refused to reveal if he had a Plan B in the event Folau escaped the sack and was free to return to the Waratahs.
“Obviously that’s very hypothetical and until we learn that fate we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” he said.
“We’re still following (the case) and it’s in progress. It’s a difficult one.
“We’re no different to all the opinions in society. We’re a team and have very diverse opinions on where we sit on everything.
“(It’s about) managing that dynamic and the opportunity is for us to come together over a common purpose and that’s what we’ve done.”
The Waratahs have lost three of their past four games since Folau was stood down to tumble to 13th on the Super Rugby ladder.
“We’re never going to use that (suspension) as an excuse for our performance and if you look at our performances it’s not because of Israel,” Gibson said.