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Folau ready to walk away from Australian rugby over beliefs

© AFP | Anti-gay uproar: Australia's Israel Folau

SYDNEY (AFP) - 

Wallabies superstar Israel Folau says he is ready to walk away from his Rugby Australia contract as his religious faith is "more important to me than my career" after an uproar over anti-gay comments he posted online.

Folau, a devout Christian and one of the code's most marketable players, wrote on social media this month that God's plan for gay people was hell unless they repented their sins.

The 29-year-old defended his post late Monday on www.playersvoice.com.au, a website for sportspeople to air their views, saying he had written them "honestly and from the heart".

Folau also hit out at Rugby Australia chief Raelene Castle for her comments about him after he was summoned to a meeting with the governing body, which has an inclusion policy to stop discrimination, over his anti-gay remarks.

Castle took no action against the dynamic fullback, but said the star had agreed to "think about" the impact of his posts and had acknowledged his comments could have been made "in a more respectful way".

"I felt Raelene misrepresented my position and my comments, and did so to appease other people, which is an issue I need to discuss with her and others at Rugby Australia," he wrote.

Folau revealed he told Castle he was ready to walk away from his contract immediately "if she felt the situation had become untenable -- that I was hurting Rugby Australia, its sponsors and the Australian rugby community to such a degree that things couldn't be worked through".

The offer to break the contract, which finishes this year, was not so he could return to rugby league, Folau added, amid speculation that several National Rugby League clubs were interested in signing him.

"At no stage over the past two weeks have I wanted that to happen," he added.

"This is not about money or bargaining power or contracts. It's about what I believe in and never compromising that, because my faith is far more important to me than my career and always will be."

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said last week that Folau's anti-gay remarks would not be tolerated if he opts to switch codes to league.

Folau played in Australia's NRL from 2007-10, moved to Aussie Rules for two years before switching codes again, this time to union, by signing with the New South Wales Waratahs.

© 2018 AFP