Rugby Australia has sacked one of its biggest stars Israel Folau for social media posts which were critical of gay people.
The 30-year-old fullback’s contract was terminated on Friday after he was found guilty earlier this month of a “high-level breach of the professional players’ code of conduct” over the Instagram and Twitter post.
In the 10 April post he wrote “hell awaits” for “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolaters”.
His dismissal comes four months before the Rugby World Cup kicks off in Japan in September – which he would almost certainly have been selected for.
Only last month the former rugby league international and Australian Rules player became the top try scorer in the history of Super Rugby.
His sacking also comes a year after Folau, a staunch Christian, received a warning for making other homophobic comments on social media, but on that occasion he escaped with a warning.
Folau, who has already lost one sponsorship deal with sportswear brand Asics over the issue, has 72 hours to appeal the ruling.
Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle told reporters at a news conference in Sydney that the body had no other option but to sack Folau.
“This outcome is painful for the game,” she said.
“RA supports (players’) rights to their own beliefs and nothing changes from that.
“But when we talk about inclusiveness we mean that we respect our differences as well.”
Ms Castle had previously said the way Folau had expressed his religious beliefs was “inconsistent with the values of the sport” and described the language used in the post as “unacceptable”.
Folau told the congregation at his church in Sydney at the weekend that backing down on the matter would have been akin to succumbing to the temptation of Satan.
Rugby Australia had intended to put specific clauses about social media use into Folau’s new contract after last year’s row but “someone” had forgotten, The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Thursday.
The issue has triggered a wider debate in Australia about freedom of speech – and whether an employee’s conduct outside of the workplace is a sackable offence.