SYDNEY – Bernard Foley said on Friday that the Waratahs have enough depth to cope without Israel Folau, hitting out at his long-time teammate for disrupting their season.
The deeply religious star fullback is fighting to save his career over anti-gay social media posts last week, with an upcoming code of conduct tribunal to determine his fate after Rugby Australia decided to sack him.
He has been stood down in the meantime, with the scandal throwing the Wallabies World Cup plans into disarray.
It has also impacted the Waratahs, with Foley not happy at the distraction ahead of a crunch game against the Melbourne Rebels in Sydney on Saturday.
"We are here talking about it now. We are not talking about a game... which we should be," he told reporters. "He has hurt the team which is not why we play sport."
"I don't think Izzy is a bad guy... But I don't agree with what he's done," he added.
"It's a tough situation, so for myself personally it's a big loss this weekend but we will deal with that.
"We have trained all week without him and we're looking forward to going out there and getting the job done."
How the Waratahs fare against the in-form Rebels without Folau, arguably their biggest star, will be keenly watched. Some commentators questioning whether they can succeed without him.
Folau's influence is without question. Earlier this month he broke the all-time record for Super Rugby tries with his 60th touchdown.
Many of them were set up by Foley, his friend who has played alongside him since the 30-year-old switched from rugby league to the Waratahs in 2013.
"He's a special player and someone I played alongside for a number of years now," Foley said.
"But as a team it comes down to how we perform as a team, not as individuals. I think we have the depth in this side to be able to cope with that.
"I have really enjoyed training this week in terms of how guys have rallied around each other, and galvanised together and are looking forward to this challenge."AFP