David Pocock fears anti-gay social media posts by professional athletes will reverse steps taken to make sports more inclusive, but says his differing views with Israel Folau won't affect Wallabies harmony.
A rejuvenated Pocock is oozing excitement about the chance to wear Wallabies gold again as he prepares to make his Test comeback in Australia's three-game series against Ireland.
David Pocock is set to make his return to the Wallabies side in the first Test against Ireland.
The 30-year-old flanker joined the Wallabies squad on Sunday night and is expected to resume his back-row combination with Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper in the series opener in Brisbane on Saturday night.
He will also reunite with Folau, two months after the star fullback stirred controversy by saying gay people would go to Hell “unless they repent for their sins”.
Pocock has been a long-time supporter of marriage equality and has spoken to Folau, a devout Christian, to tell him he "strongly disagrees" with the message Folau sent to fans.
But speaking for the first time since Folau's post, Pocock said vastly different views on social issues and same-sex equality doesn't mean there's a divide between individuals in Wallabies camp.
"Absolutely [we can play together], I've got family who have those views and we've had it out over the years," Pocock said, speaking about Folau's posts for the first time.
"The bottom line is they’re family. You talk about it in a civil way … and when you do that you realise we've got far more common ground than we have in difference of belief.
"I just don't see who wins if we aren't able to relate to each other as humans and keep talking about things rather than having these really nasty polarising debates to decide who is and isn't part of our tribe based on their beliefs.
"We all lose something when we aren't able to engage with people just because we disagree on something."
Rugby Australia warned Folau he was “walking the line” after his post about gay people going to Hell was followed by a tweet of a video which contained homophobic messages.
Israel Folau and David Pocock will reunite as teammates.
Rugby Australia took a stance in favour of marriage equality last year. It was a stance supported by Pocock but discouraged by Folau because of his Christian faith.
The issue has been a divisive one for all sports and Rugby Australia have attempted to handle Folau's views delicately. Pocock says sport "is at its best when it's challenging society to be more inclusive.
"I was really impressed with the leadership Rugby Australia showed to support marriage equality because this is something that affects people all through society.
"Ultimately, we all lose if our society isn't inclusive. If we have people who can't be who they are, are fearful or are discriminated against for simply being who they are.
"[Folau and I] hold very different views on Christian theology and eschatology and we've spoken about that.
"There are certainly people who feel that radical inclusivity doesn't fit in their world-view or beliefs. I'm sympathetic to that, having grown up in those kinds of faith communities, but I strongly disagree and I think blaming people for who they are can be really damaging.
"Having Australia's best rugby player using his platform like that has the potential to really harm young people who are going through some pretty rough stuff trying to come to terms with their sexuality.
"They're [trying to do] that in a culture that clearly hasn't become inclusive enough. The fact there are still no footballers in Australia who are openly 'out', that says plenty about current sports culture and our society."
Folau on Sunday shed light on the conversation he had with Pocock at a meeting of Wallabies players at Sanctuary Cove last month.
The 29-year-old was also adamant there would be no issue with the pair playing alongside each other.
Pocock has previously voiced his concern about the influence high-profile people or athletes can have on society if they portray negative messages via social media.
"You wouldn't let someone get up in front of 100,000 people at the MCG and say something that's homophobic, but on Twitter it's very much the same thing. There has to be accountability," Pocock said during an appearance on Q and A in 2012.
Pocock and Folau will be crucial to the Wallabies' hopes of beating world No. 2 Ireland in their three Test series, with the third match in Sydney on June 23 already sold out.
Pocock played for the ACT Brumbies on Sunday afternoon after a drawn out club versus country debate following the Wallabies request for players to be rested from the Super Rugby match in Canberra.
The Brumbies' Wallabies contingent will arrive in camp late on Sunday night and will have a six-day turnaround before the Test opener against Ireland at Suncorp Stadium.
It will be Pocock's first game for the Wallabies since taking a 12-month sabbatical from Australian rugby last year, spending time doing conservation work in Africa and reconnecting with his family roots in Zimbabwe.
But he's itching to get a chance to add to his 65 Tests for Australia and restart his hopes of helping the Wallabies claim World Cup glory in Japan next year.
"I'm really looking forward to it. It's always a huge honour to represent Australia and when you pull on that jersey you're also representing the people who have been a part of the journey," Pocock said.
"That's incredibly special, and having spent more time last year back in Zimbabwe, it certainly adds a bit to it, you want to do those people proud."
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