Rugby union star David Pocock has weighed in on teammate Israel Folau’s anti-gay comments, saying he fears they could be harmful to young people.

Folau, a devout Christian, has been at the centre of controversy over a series of anti-gay social media posts, including messages that gay people are destined for hell.

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LGBTI advocate Pocock said he fears that Folau’s messages could set back efforts to make sports more inclusive of diversity, Fox Sports has reported.

“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 said.

“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.”

He added that despite his disagreement with Folau, he didn’t think their opposing views would divide the team.

“Absolutely [we can play together],” said Pocock.

“I’ve got family who have those views and we’ve had it out over the years.

“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 agreed that the team remained united, telling reporters on Sunday that he and Pocock had “an open conversation” about their respective beliefs.

“We’re both grown men and we talked about things,” he said.

“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.

“We’re 100 per cent behind each other.”

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