Billy Vunipola: Saracens number eight regrets impact of Folau comments on team-mates

Billy Vunipola
Billy Vunipola won the European Champions Cup with Saracens in May

Billy Vunipola says he is determined not to disrupt England's World Cup preparations and regrets the impact on his Saracens team-mates after defending Israel Folau's anti-gay comments.

In April, Vunipola, 26, was warned by the Rugby Football Union for his support of Australian Folau's post which said "hell awaits" gay people.

But Vunipola - also a devout Christian - added "everyone knows where I stand".

"The regret I would have is bringing my team-mates into disrepute," he said.

"That was something I didn't really think about, which was probably a bit selfish from my point of view," the Saracens number eight added to BBC Sport.

"That is something I don't want to happen here [with England]. I don't want them to be affected by one person's opinion."

After liking Folau's post, Vunipola added on Instagram: "There just comes a point when you insult what I grew up believing in that you just say enough is enough.... He's [Folau] saying how we live our lives needs to be closer to how God intended them to be. Man was made for woman to procreate, that was the goal no?"

Folau's contract was terminated by Rugby Australia in May after he was found guilty of a "high level breach" of RA's player code of conduct.

Vunipola said: "We dealt with it as a group at Sarries and put it out in the open. I addressed the group myself.

"Everyone knows where I stood - or where I stand - but the point we had coming out of [the meeting] was that it is unfair to bring everyone else into it.

"Whatever I say will be scrutinised and will affect the team so, for me, it is better to say nothing about it.

"If I was a boxer I would happily sit here and talk to you about how I feel, how I think, how I stand. But it would be very unfair for me to do that right now, as it wouldn't be fair [on the rest of the England squad]."

Joe Marler and James Haskell were among current and former team-mates to voice their opposition to Vunipola's views, but the number eight is confident there will be no divisions in camp.

While Haskell has retired, Marler is among the 40 players currently training in Bristol before the tournament in Japan, which starts in September.

"Hask came to my wedding," Vunipola added. "All these things are there to be talked about.

"Marler and I have yet to talk about it but we are going to sit down. We are going to talk and see where it gets us."

Vunipola was booed by supporters during the latter stages of Saracens' victorious Champions Cup campaign last season, and accepts he could receive similar treatment in the future.

"I brought this on myself and I am not going to hide away from the fact I did," he said.

"But it is something that also means a lot to me and I know it means a lot to other people."

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