Steve Hansen: Israel Folau must be allowed to move on from comments

Steve Hansen: Israel Folau must be allowed to move on from comments

World XV head coach Steve Hansen believes Israel Folau should be allowed to move on from his controversial religious views which resulted in his contract being terminated by Rugby Australia.

The former Wallaby scored a try but received boos from a group of around 100 banner-waving LGBTQ+ protesters throughout the World XV's 48-42 defeat to the Barbarians at Twickenham on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) raised the pride flag on the roof of Twickenham during the match.

Folau was sacked by Rugby Australia in 2019 for a "high-level" breach of their code of conduct following a stream of social media posts that were considered homphobic.

The devout Christian has since switched allegiances to Tonga and is expected to feature at the Rugby World Cup in France later this year.

Hansen, who was wearing a pride wristband, said a line should be drawn under the saga.

"Everyone is allowed an opinion. We don't necessarily have to agree with each other on our opinions but you are entitled to have one," said the former All Blacks head coach.

"You can't be punished for the rest of your life for having an opinion that most of us disagree with.

"I've always been a great believer that you can't help somebody change by leaving them on the outside."

A 32,597 crowd enjoyed an entertaining 14-try thriller with stars such as Folau, Charles Piutau, Semi Radradra and Sbu Nkosi in the World XV side while the Barbarians line-up included the likes of Alun Wyn Jones, Quade Cooper and Samu Kerevi.

It provided Barbarians coach Eddie Jones with a winning return in his first appearance at Twickenham since being fired by England last December.

In previous years Jones coached against the Barbarians and the 63-year-old urged the RFU to be careful over how its traditional annual fixture against England is marketed in the future.

"I can speak as a former England coach. I don't think England should play the Barbarians, unless it's a younger England team," he said.

"At this time of the season you can never pick the England team, so it shouldn't be called England. It should be called England President's XV or something like that.

"Playing against the Barbarians is a great idea but to try and sell it as England is not honest. It's not honest."