Rugby's D-Day arrives but end not in sight as Folau prepares for fight of career

The day few people in rugby wanted to see has arrived. But, as highly anticipated as Israel Folau's code-of-conduct hearing on Saturday is, the conclusion to what has become a protracted saga will not be swift, with some suggesting the matter could drag o

That would be a disaster for Rugby Australia (RA) and is the last thing the code's governing body wants to see happen.

Still, one thing is for sure, the speed with which RA declared its intention to sack the Wallabies star less than 24 hours after his Instagram post declared homosexuals were going to hell will not be mirrored at the code-of-conduct hearing, with lawyers coming at the from every angle.

There is also the chance that should Saturday's hearing find against Folau he could appeal, with the matter ending up before the courts. And that means the matter will not be settled quickly.

"If it does end up in the ordinary courts such as the federal court, potentially, those matters can take months or even a couple of years," Giuseppe Carabetta, an employment law expert at the University of Sydney Business School, told AAP on Friday.

RA will bend over backwards to ensure that does not happen and Folau's people know that.  

If the hearing finds against Folau and he loses a subsequent appeals hearing, the matter could be headed for the courts. That would mean a lengthy, not to mention costly, legal battle.

Faith or fortune? It's not hard to imagine the path Folau could choose.

There have been any number of opinions aired in the 24 days since Folau posted a photo on social media, containing a "warning" that "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators" were set to go to Hell unless they repented their sins.

On Saturday morning at 11am (NZT), Folau will front the cameras. He will not be given any special, side-door treatment as he fights for his rugby career in the same RA headquarters where last year he promised chief executive Raelene Castle he wouldn't post another message that could be construed as homophobic.

Folau's code-of-conduct hearing – rugby's first since Kurtley Beale in 2014 – will begin at 11.30am and conclude at 7pm (NZT).

There is next to no chance of a verdict being reached on Saturday and RA has already said an outcome is not expected to even be publicised by Sunday evening after a second day of proceedings.

No one from RA will be speaking on the matter on Saturday.

The Sydney Morning Herald understands Tuesday is looming as the more likely day for the first of what are expected to be several decisions are handed down.

The reason RA has been unclear about timelines is because it has no control over how the hearing plays out.

But what it can be certain of is its own intention - and that is to sack Folau. If a three-person independent panel rules that a fine and/or suspension is a sufficient punishment, RA won't be satisfied and is likely to appeal the decision.

After the decisions are handed down, either party has 72 hours to submit any appeal.

If that occurs – as is expected, regardless of the outcome – a maximum of five business days can be set aside to come up with a fresh three-person panel to essentially oversee an identical code-of-conduct hearing.

Finding a new panel and locking down a fresh date is easier said than done. It

is worth noting that RA had to settle on a weekend for this upcoming hearing to accommodate the Monday to Friday schedules of those who will front up for an incredibly complex case that will attract worldwide attention.

This weekend will provide few answers to many questions, beyond what lawyers will debate.

Should Folau win the hearing and RA subsequently appeal, will he be eligible for the Waratahs?

And if he is still stood down from Super Rugby, what does that mean for his international future?

The next Wallabies get-together is in a fortnight, on May 18, almost four months out from the start of the World Cup.

Coach Michael Cheika has said he won't pick Folau again but if he is cleared, and there is no ongoing appeal, should he allowed to return to the national setup?

That could also prove problematic, given how many of Folau's teammates have publicly expressed their opposition to Folau's point of view.

The matter has been dragging on now for over three weeks, during which time the game in Australia has been brought to its knees.

At this stage, all that seems certain is that any resolution is far from clear. And that it won't happen quickly.