Steve Hansen backs rainbow flag after selecting former Wallabies star to face Eddie Jones’ Barbarians

Former All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has applauded a move to fly a rainbow flag above Twickenham as a response to his selection of Israel Folau in a World XV side, who will play against an Eddie Jones-coached Barbarians on Sunday.

Hansen conceded picking Folau for the invitational team was controversial, four years after the 73-cap Wallaby was sacked by Rugby Australia for social media posts saying homosexuals would go to hell. Folau sued Rugby Australia for unfair dismissal, claiming freedom of religious expression, and the parties later settled for an undisclosed sum.

Folau now plays in Japan but his selection for Hansen’s World XV caused a stir and the Rugby Football Union decided it would fly a rainbow flag at Twickenham during the game as a show of support for the LGBTQ community.

Speaking at a press conference in London, Hansen acknowledged Folau’s involvement in the game may cause “hurt” to some, but said he’d picked on rugby merit alone.

“It (the rainbow flag) is a consequence of Folau’s selection and I think it’s a good thing. It’s an opportunity to show support to that flag. I don’t have a problem with it,” Hansen said.

“There wouldn’t be one there if Israel wasn’t playing so whenever we can bring attention to people who are suffering in a positive way, that’s good.

Steve Hansen issuing instructions at the World XV’s training session in London.

Steve Hansen issuing instructions at the World XV’s training session in London.Credit: Getty

“They deserve to be loved and cared for as much as anybody else. If we all did that it’d be a happy place, wouldn’t it.

“Israel Folau is a very good rugby player. He’s world-class. And I know by picking him that there will be some people hurt. And I get that.

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