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RFU, Saracens reprimand Billy Vunipola over Israel Folau defence

Rugby

The Rugby Football Union and Saracens have 'formally warned' England No. 8 Billy Vunipola over his social media activity after defending Israel Folau's social media posts claiming "hell awaits" homosexuals.

Vunipola was booed when he came off the bench for Saracens against Bristol in the Premiership at the weekend after liking Folau's posts before defending the Australian's anti-gay comments.

Folau declared "hell awaits" homosexuals, drunks, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters in a post on Instagram, while also posting to Twitter a screenshot of the news that Tasmania had become the first Australian state to make genders optional on birth certificates, accompanied by the words: "The devil has blinded so many people in this world, REPENT and turn away from your evil ways. Turn to Jesus Christ who will set you free."

Folau has since been sacked by Rugby Australia over the posts -- he has 48 hours to accept his sacking or choose to face a code of conduct hearing. 

Vunipola won't face further action besides receiving strong warnings from both club and country. After being reprimanded by Saracens on Monday evening, the RFU added their statement on Tuesday. 

The statement read: "Following a meeting between the RFU and Billy Vunipola, the Saracens forward has been issued with a formal warning under RFU rule 5.12 for conduct prejudicial to the interests of the union or the game. The warning will be retained on his disciplinary record for a period of five years and may be taken into account in future disciplinary proceedings.

"During the meeting the player expressed genuine regret at his public comments and understood that he had caused hurt and offence as a result of his actions.

"He has been reminded of his responsibilities as an England player and as an ambassador for the game, which values inclusivity and respect."

"Senior representatives of the Club yesterday held lengthy discussions with Billy Vunipola regarding his recent social media activity," Saracens said on Monday. 

"At Saracens, we are one family, open to all with the firm view that everyone should be treated equally with respect and humility.

"We recognise the complexity of different belief systems and understand Billy's intention was to express the word of God rather than cause offence. However, he made a serious error of judgement in publicly sharing his opinion, which is inconsistent with the values of the Club and contravenes his contractual obligations.

"The player has been formally warned about his future conduct."

Vunipola added: "I can see that my recent post has hurt people. My intention was never to cause suffering. My intention was to express my belief in the word of God. These beliefs are a source of great strength, comfort and guidance in my life. This is deeply personal and does not represent the views of my team.

"Anyone who knows me, knows I live with kindness and love towards ALL people.

"I have faith. My Christian faith has sustained me through the ups and many downs of my life. God has given and continues to give me many reasons in life to be grateful."

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