Few behaved admirably in the midst of the Billy Vunipola circus today. The player may have been awarded the man-of-the-match award after Saracen's win over Munster in the Champions Cup semi final, but much of the attention was still on his recent actions on social media.
The number eight recently liked an Instagram post from Australia's Israel Folau which condemned the actions of the LGBT community, while also going on himself to say: "Man was made for woman to pro create that was the goal no?"
Vunipola received a formal warning from the RFU for his actions.
He was jeered throughout the game by the Munster supporters, but seemed undeterred in his post match interview today. When asked how he had dealt with the backlash he received, the England international said 'I believe in what I believe in':
"I believe in what I believe in. There was no intention to hurt anyone."
Billy Vunipola speaks after a Man of the Match performance. pic.twitter.com/aoE7wxeVQK
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) April 20, 2019
Behind closed doors I've felt a lot of love and kindness shown to me. Like I said, I'm very grateful to be part of this team. Hopefully we just keep this going, doing what we're doing and we are enjoying every minute of it...
From my point of view, I believe in what I believe in. There was no intention to hurt anyone, never my intention. I'm just grateful to be able to play and be fit. Hopefully I see those guys (who booed him) in the final.
Hardly a heartfelt apology. Some Munster fans even brought LGBT pride flag to the game to make their feelings known.
No boos for Billy Vunipola but one Munster fan did bring a great flag 🌈 pic.twitter.com/pq2GJicLvb
— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) April 20, 2019
One Munster fan even took to the pitch to confront Vunipola at the end of the game, exchanging some unsavoury words from the sideline. It is not the type of thing we like to see in rugby, but it shows the anger that is there surrounding the player's comments. When asked about the incident after the game, Saracens coach Mark McCall said:
I didn't see it. I think you could see the group was tight today. I think you could see how together we were. It was a great team performance and Billy was a part of that.
The EPCR released a statement condemning the actions of the supporter:
His recent comments were glossed over in more ways than one. The BT Sport commentators consistently spoke as though about Vunipola had suffered some sort of personal hardship. They seemingly decided to ignore the fact that the backlash he received was due to his own ignorance.
“Vunipola, at the end of the week he’s had!” is the absolutely disgraceful reaction of the @btsportrugby commentator to that try. His “toughest week of his life”. Being a homophobe is apparently something that is forgiven by playing rugby now.
— Michael McCarthy (@McCarthyMick) April 20, 2019
Vunipola’s views do not preclude him from winning MOTM, he’s very good at rugby, but BT’s simpering obsequiousness to him is embarrassing
— Ronan Murphy (@Ro_Murph) April 20, 2019
While separating the sportsperson with their personal life is understandable at times, showing a bit more awareness in these type of situations is a must. Vunipola is not the victim here.