Israel Folau was met with jeers from LGBTQ+ protesters as Eddie Jones’ Barbarians triumphed 48-42 on a rollercoaster afternoon at Twickenham.
Folau scored one try for the World XV and initiated a second with a dynamic run from deep, but his every involvement was the subject of boos from small pockets of fans.
The 34-year-old, a Christian fundamentalist, was sacked by Rugby Australia in 2019 because of a series of anti-gay social media posts, including one telling “homosexuals” that “hell awaits you”.
Thanks World XV for a brilliant game of rugby.
— Barbarian FC (@Barbarian_FC) May 28, 2023
The Rugby Football Union reacted to his selection by World XV coach Steven Hansen by flying the pride flag on Twickenham’s roof and there were several rainbow flags evident in the 32,597 crowd.
Folau has switched national allegiance from Australia to Tonga and there is the expectation that the former rugby league star will face a similar reception during this autumn’s World Cup.
World XV backs Charles Piutau, Semi Radradra and Sbu Nkosi lit up the afternoon with their swashbuckling skills, but the Barbarians’ greater cohesion and influence of generals Quade Cooper and Gareth Anscombe.
Wales great Alun Wyn Jones, who announced his retirement from international rugby 10 days ago, led the Barbarians and while he completed the game he was off-target with two late conversions.
It was a successful return for Jones who was making his first appearance at Twickenham since being sacked by England in December.