The Waratahs won't be drawn into hypotheticals but coach Daryl Gibson says Israel Folau's exploits on the field will be sorely missed if he is rubbed out of the game.
Folau's future is expected to become clearer this week, potentially as early as Wednesday, after he posted a photo to Instagram on April 10 that said homosexuals, among other groups such as drunks and atheists, were destined for hell unless they repented.
A three-person independent panel, which sat through a three-day Rugby Australia code of conduct hearing, will hand down a punishment for Folau after he was found guilty of a high-level breach of the professional players' code of conduct.
Termination of his four-year contract looks to be a near certainty, unless Folau's legal team can persuade the panel of John West, QC, Kate Eastman, SC, and John Boultbee that a fine and/or suspension is a fairer outcome.
There is also the likelihood of appeals to come, with Folau's team having 72 hours to lodge their intent to take the matter to another code of conduct hearing.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has already gone on the record and said that under current circumstances he "wouldn't be able to" pick Folau.
However, his Super Rugby coach, Gibson, has not explicitly said Folau would be banished from the Waratahs if there was an avenue for him to return.
There will be a clearer picture once a verdict is released but there have been murmurs the Waratahs, particularly early on, were taking a less hardline stance than RA on the matter.
Speaking on Tuesday, Gibson was asked if he had a plan B if Folau did not have his contract torn up by RA, which is supplemented by the Waratahs.
"That's very hypothetical and until we learn that fate we'll cross that bridge when we get to it," Gibson said. "We're still following it and it's in progress. It's a difficult one. We're no different to all the opinions in society. We're a team and have very diverse opinions on where we sit on everything. [It is about] managing that dynamic and the opportunity is for us to come together over a common purpose and that's what we've done."
Folau last featured for the Waratahs in their round-eight loss to the Blues. Four days later, during a bye week, the 30-year-old fired off a post that attracted widespread criticism and could very well be the catalyst for the end of a glittering career.
If that is the case, the enormity of the decision might take some time to sink in.
Last month Folau became Super Rugby's leading try-scorer after just six-and-a-half seasons in the 15-man game.
He is Australia's equal third highest try-scorer at Test level and was set to play a key role for the Wallabies at the World Cup, which gets under way in just over four months.
"He's an incredible talent," Gibson said. "I think that's probably what's been lost in this is the fact he's potentially going to be lost to the code."
Asked whether teammates would reach out to Folau this week, Gibson replied: "Absolutely. Israel is still a teammate. We still care for him and that will continue. There is still a range of options still on the table for him and we'll learn his fate this week."
The Waratahs have lost three of their four games since Folau was stood down indefinitely and find themselves struggling in 13th on the ladder.
Losing a player of Folau's calibre was always bound to affect the side but now, with their season on life support, the Waratahs would be desperate for his services.
Gibson refused to blame the side's recent woes on Folau's absence.
"We're never going to use that as an excuse for our performance and if you look at our performances it's not because of Israel ... our various issues are there to see," Gibson said. "There is technical and tactical things that are going on."
- SMH/The Age