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Haskell: Rugby can be a pioneer for inclusivity

Northampton Saints’ James Haskell highlighted rugby’s inclusive values this week as he helped put with a training session for the only LGBTQ club in the East Midlands.

Northampton Outlaws RFC were formed in 2012 as the only gay and inclusive rugby team in the region and recently entered Gallagher’s ‘Train with your Heroes’ competition.

The Outlaws won the nationwide competition by displaying how their team embodies the spirit of rugby, and as a result received the prize of a training session led by Saints Haskell, Tom Wood and Ken Pisi.

"Having teams like Outlaws where you know you can get involved is massively important."

James Haskell

The Gallagher Premiership Rugby and international stars put the Northampton club through their paces, in a show of support for both inclusivity and local, grassroots rugby.

“The Outlaws are really putting their hands up and saying ‘we can do this’ and they’re giving people a sanctuary," said Haskell.

“My view on sexuality is it’s a shame that it’s something people still have to announce or deal with, but obviously we do, and it’s like that because a lot of people aren’t informed as they should be.

“I think there’s a multitude of religions that make sexuality a very uncomfortable thing which is a shame. I never came out as straight so I don’t see why other people should have to put their hand up and say ‘I’m gay, or I’m this or I’m that’ but we live in this world.

“I can’t imagine what it’s like to be struggling to actually be yourself, to live a life where you’re not able to be yourself and to come to a team like the Outlaws where you’re not judged, you’re accepted, it’s essential.

“We all have our struggles and sexuality for a lot of people is a massive struggle – having teams like this where you know you can get involved is massively important.

“Long may it continue but hopefully one day we’ll reach a stage where sexuality is not a thing, hopefully rugby will keep being a pioneer in this area.”

The Saints players and coaches passed on plenty of experience and tips to the Outlaws in the energetic evening session, working on areas such as breakdown and communication skills.

Since being formed seven years ago, the Outlaws have developed a reputation of welcoming in any individual regardless of gender, race, sexuality or rugby experience – and the squad enjoyed the professionally-delivered, full-blooded session.

Club president Simon Law said: “It’s really good for the lads to have England internationals down, local players as well, and just to really engage more in the local RFU scene as well, and also getting some great tips from the guys!

“Generally I think rugby’s fine in terms of inclusivity but I think it’s very daunting for somebody from the LGBTQ community to get into a normal rugby club, because generally people have come through from school, university, college and they’ve gone through that culture already.

“To then come into that culture as a complete outsider is a difficult thing to do, so when you’ve got a club like this where people have been here for two months or six years or whatever, it doesn’t matter.

“We play together, we socialise together, we train together, all as one team, and no matter your experience we all play as one team and just try to have a good time but also to win matches!

“It’s great that the Saints boys can come out and show the guys here that they can be part of it – it doesn’t matter – age, shape, size, ability, rugby is a game for all!”

Haskell was speaking at a Gallagher ‘Train with your Heroes’ session with Northampton Outlaws RFC after they won a nationwide competition launched by Gallagher, a passionate community insurance broker and proud title partner of Premiership Rugby. The Outlaws won by describing how their team embodies the spirit of rugby, both on and off the pitch, and helps grow the game locally.

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