SYDNEY, Australia - Star flanker David Pocock says he "strongly disagrees" with teammate Israel Folau's anti-gay views but insists it will not affect harmony within the Wallabies camp ahead of this week's Test against Ireland.
Devout Christian Folau, one of Australia's top players, has been embroiled in a storm since posting on social media in April that gay people were destined for hell, sending rugby chiefs into damage control.
Pocock, a strong advocate of marriage equality, said he fears anti-gay social media posts by professional athletes will reverse steps taken to make sports more inclusive.
"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," he told the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday.
"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."
But Pocock, who is making his Test comeback in Australia's three-game series against Ireland after a year's sabbatical, insisted his differing views with Folau would not divide the Wallabies.
"Absolutely (we can play together), I've got family who have those views and we've had it out over the years," he said.
"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.
Folau said his bond with Pocock was as strong as ever after a recent conversation between the two.
"Poey came up to me and we started an open conversation about our different beliefs," Folau told reporters.
"We're both grown men and we talked about things. Like I said, it was nothing personal and we respect each other fully. There's a whole lot of respect in our team and I like that.
"It won't change anything when we step out onto the field ... I'll be there to cover him and so will he (for me).
"We're 100 percent behind each other."
Australia play Ireland in Brisbane on June 9, Melbourne on June 16 and Sydney on June 23.