Scott Johnson says he knows first-hand the importance of inclusiveness in rugby, explaining why Rugby Australia [RA] has his full support in their employment battle with Israel Folau.
RA's director of rugby Johnson revealed the role he played when former Wales fullback Gareth Thomas struggled with his sexuality 13 years ago, cementing then a firm belief that the sport should embrace people of all backgrounds.
Asked for the first time about Folau's anti-gay social media posts, Johnson was unwilling to comment until after the star fullback's code of conduct hearing on May 4. However, he said fully supported RA issuing a high-level code of conduct breach.
"Israel, I will park (opinion) until he has his chance to say his side of the story, but as a sport and what Rugby Australia stands for, I'm all for including all types," Johnson said.
Thomas confided with Johnson in late 2006 when the Welsh great was torn over whether to reveal to his teammates that he was gay.
Johnson was the Wallabies attack coach on their tour of Europe but revealed he spent most of his night and the following morning in the Welsh team's hotel with an emotional Thomas following the 29-29 drawn Test.
"I was very privileged and honoured to be there as the person that Gareth Thomas needed to talk to about his sexuality," Johnson said. "He was a married man who was having difficulty and I remember after the Test match that we played in Cardiff ... I was coaching the opposition and he only wanted to talk to me."
Former Wales mentor Johnson had formed a coach-player relationship with Thomas over the five preceding years. Thomas publicly revealed he was gay in 2009 and spoke of his desire to be an inspiration for other young gay players.
"The sport allowed Gareth in a very dark period to come out," Johnson said. "I love the fact that he's become the man he has. I think he stands for so many good things.
"This went beyond the sport, it cut across countries. A rugby team is a microcosm of society. We've all got issues."