'Disgusts me': Rugby figures slam Izzy for anti-gay views

Warren Barnsley
AAP

Rugby's highest-profile referee Nigel Owens has urged Israel Folau to judge him on his personality rather than his homosexuality.

The Wallabies star has also been admonished for his anti-gay views by Chiefs halfback Brad Weber, who's described the prospect of playing against him as disgusting.

A referee of more than 150 international matches, Welshman Owens has condemned Folau's view that gay people are destined for hell unless they repent their "sins".

Owens came out publicly in 2007 after attempting suicide at the age of 24, having struggled to come to terms with his sexuality.

The 46-year-old stressed devout Christian Folau is entitled to his beliefs but suggested the comment would have been unhelpful during his difficult time.

Folau has copped plenty of criticism from high profile rugby figures. Pic: Getty

"When you're in a position of privilege like that, there comes a responsibility with the way you convey those beliefs," Owens told the Unfiltered podcast.

"For me it's trying to get those people to understand, look, me being gay is not a choice.

"There are young people out there taking their own lives, feeling like I did.

"And that's what I wish people would think about and the way they convey their opinions and I wish they would try and understand that everybody's different.

"Judge me and other gay people, judge them on the content of their character, not their sexuality."

With Rugby Australia deciding not to sanction Folau, any push against his anti-gay views could now come from rugby's rank-and-file.

One-Test All Black Weber suggested he could no long remain silent on the issue.

"Kinda sick of us players staying quiet on some of this stuff," Weber tweeted.

"I can't stand that I have to play this game that I love with people, like Folau, who say what he's saying.

"My cousin and her partner, and my aunty and her partner are some of the most kind, caring and loving people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

"To think that I play against someone that says they'll go to Hell for being gay disgusts me."

The New Zealand All Blacks also appeared to respond to the controversy on Wednesday morning, with a Facebook post stating their views about inclusion and respect.

"New Zealand Rugby is committed to Diversity and Inclusion, and welcomes people from all walks of life," the post read.

"We respect that people have different views and beliefs, however expect that any opinions and views are expressed in a respectful way."

A Facebook post on the All Blacks page appears to respond to the Folau controversy. Pic: Facebook

Two weeks after making the comment on Instagram, Folau doubled down in a column on Monday in which he revealed he offered to walk away from his RA contract in the wake of his controversy.

"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," Folau told the Players' Voice website.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78.

Multicultural Mental Health Australia www.mmha.org.au.

Local Aboriginal Medical Service details available from www.bettertoknow.org.au/AMS