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Rugby Australia had no choice but to sack Israel Folau, says Nigel Owens

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Referee Nigel Owens thinks Israel Folau crossed the line with anti-LGBT comments made online and feels Rugby Australia were left with no choice but to sack the full-back.

Israel Folau only has himself to blame for the termination of his contract by Rugby Australia, according to referee Nigel Owens.

Folau was sacked for committing a "high-level breach" of the code of conduct over social media posts he made in April where he wrote "hell awaits" for "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolators".

The full-back can appeal the decision but Owens feels the right outcome has been reached, particularly as Folau has been warned about his conduct in the past.

"Rugby is an inclusive sport. It's inclusive for all shapes and sizes, for whatever the colour of your skin is, for whatever your religious beliefs are or whatever your sexual orientation," Owens told Sky Sports News on International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.

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Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle reflects on the decision to terminate Folau's contract.

"Rugby is quite clear there is a place for everybody in the sport and rightly so.

"It [Folau's situation] is a sorry state but I think Rugby Australia acted in the only way that they could.

"And they have sent a clear message to people that 'look, we respect you are different, you have your different beliefs and that's fine and there's a place for you in rugby but there is a line that you do not cross when you portray those beliefs as outspokenly as he has done."

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LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 31:  Referee Nigel Owens of Wales awards a penalty during the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final match between New Zealand and Australia
Image: Owens refereed Folau during the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final

Owens, who came out in 2007, is particularly worried of the impact that comments like the ones made by Folau can have on young people.

"When people do say these hateful words like that - that you're going to go to hell because you are different to them because of your sexuality, then that causes a lot of hurt," Owens added.

"And young people going through that difficult time in their lives when they do hear languages like that from anybody - but particularly from somebody in a position of influence like that - it can really do a lot of damage and cause a lot of hurt."

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