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Anti-gay row Folau's sacking challenge given February court date

The former Wallaby launched legal action against Rugby Australia and the NSW Waratahs earlier this month, demanding an apology, compensation and the right to play again.

Israel Folau. Picture: @OfficialIsraelFolau/Facebook.com.

SYDNEY - Fallen Wallabies star Israel Folau will get his day in court next February unless he and Rugby Australia can reach an agreement over his sacking for homophobic social media posts.

Federal Circuit Court judge Will Astergren on Tuesday ordered the parties to return to mediation by 13 December and, failing a successful outcome, for a three- to-five-day trial that would begin on 4 February.

The former Wallaby launched legal action against Rugby Australia and the NSW Waratahs earlier this month, demanding an apology, compensation and the right to play again.

The decision means that the Wallabies will avoid having to fight a high-profile court case during the Rugby World Cup, which runs from September to November this year.

Lawyers for Folau accused rugby's governing body of trying to drag out the case.

Adam Hochroth, a lawyer for Rugby Australia, denied those allegations and sought to keep details of an earlier closed-door tribunal hearing secret.

Folau, who has played 73 times for the Wallabies, raised more than Aus$2 million in just two days through the Australian Christian Lobby to help pay his legal fees before the appeal was suspended, with enough money "for now".

GoFundMe earlier shutdown Folau's crowdfunding campaign that raised more than Aus$700,000, saying it would not "tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion".

Folau's claim argues he was unlawfully dismissed under a section of Australia's Fair Work Act that disallows sackings because of a person's religion.

Rugby Australia has insisted the firing was purely contractual, saying he had agreed not to disparage anyone over their sexual orientation following a similar controversy last year.

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