SYDNEY (Reuters) - The Wallabies will not take a knee in support of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign ahead of next week’s Rugby Championship game against New Zealand as they will be focused on honouring Australia’s indigenous people, coach Dave Rennie said on Friday.
Australia will wear a new ‘First Nation’ jersey for the game on Oct. 31 but while fullback Dane Haylett-Petty had suggested they might also join other sports in the protest against racial injustice Rennie said they had voted against the idea.
“We won’t,” Rennie said on a conference call when asked if they would take a knee.
“The key thing is that this is about honouring our indigenous people and we want the focus to be on that.
“Everyone has got their own opinions around the other situation but we want the focus to be around reflecting on our history and our past.
“Our focus is around the First Nations people and the indigenous jersey; we’re not looking to make a political statement.”
Haylett-Petty’s comments provoked plenty of debate, with 1991 World Cup-winning captain Nick Farr-Jones calling the idea of joining the protest “divisive”.
Gary Ella, who along with his brothers Mark and Glen played for the Wallabies in the 1980s and carved a path for indigenous Australians in rugby union, told the Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday that Farr-Jones’ comments were “stupid talk”.
Rennie added that the coaches had discussed the issue on Thursday with the team’s leadership group when they assembled to prepare for the All Blacks test, which also doubles as the third match in their Bledisloe Cup series.
The group then went to the players, who were “unanimous” in deciding not to take a knee.
Rugby Australia interim chief executive Rob Clarke said in a statement that the organisation and the team condemned any form of racism or discrimination while acknowledging that they were “still on the path to reconciliation”.
“The First Nations jersey is a strong statement in itself ... and the Wallabies are incredibly proud to wear it, what it means and who it represents,” he added.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by xxxxxxx
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