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26 Jan 2020, Edition - 1657, Sunday

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Sports

Raelene Castle says Rugby Australia ‘didn’t back down’ on Israel Folau deal

https://www.theguardian.com/

Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle is standing by the move to settle with sacked Wallabies star Israel Folau, saying it was a “commercial decision” that gives the national body certainty.

Castle says the organisation “didn’t back down” but rather it ensured the cost to RA was less than going to a trial, which was due to start in February.

Castle had earlier tweeted to dismiss a reported settlement figure of $8m as “wildly inaccurate” and she says RA won’t have to make changes to the budget or take money away from community rugby to pay Folau.

Addressing media at RA headquarters on Thursday, Castle said the national body was covered by insurance but couldn’t discuss to what extent.

“The terms are confidential but what you do try to find is a situation that gives RA some certainty, and this settlement gives us that and also ensured that cost to RA was less than seeing a trial through to the end of February,” Castle said. “We didn’t back down – we needed to give the game some certainty.”

Castle said the organisation made the right call in sacking Folau in April for his religiously motivated, but inflammatory, anti-gay social media posts.

“We made the right decision in calling out Israel on his posts and inappropriate messaging, that remains the same,” she said.

“We stuck to our values that inclusiveness is core to the key of rugby. Taking this conversation further into a court situation was not helping the game and so we made a decision that gave us cost certainty that put us in the best financial situation in entering the new year in a positive way.”

Castle said she felt she was still the right person to lead RA, and backed the way she and the board had handled the matter.

“I do because at the end of the day this has been very difficult – there’s not a business leader that leads an organisation that I’ve spoken to that hasn’t looked at this situation and gone, this is a very difficult thing,” she said.

“Ultimately we’ve had extensive support from the rugby community and also from the wider business community.”

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