International teams to wear rainbow laces

by staff

A host of international players are set to don rainbow laces this week in a show of support for former Wales captain Gareth Thomas.

Thomas was the victim of a homophobic attack in Cardiff a fortnight ago, with the 16-year-old offender eventually issuing an apology.

Wales and France will both wear rainbow laces in their Tests this weekend in solidarity with Thomas and other teams have been open to the idea of individual players choosing to do that.

The French were the first to make the move, announcing earlier in the week their entire squad would switch out their laces.

“He (Gareth Thomas) attracted the attention of every rugby country with the abuse he suffered," France coach Jacques Brunel said on Thursday.

"I think rugby must support him. We're going to show our total disapproval of this behaviour. We want to support Gareth Thomas wholeheartedly."

Wales followed suit not long after, with both their men’s and women’s team to observe an annual campaign that runs in November to speak up against homophobia.

“We are delighted to confirm that Welsh rugby is once again proudly endorsing Stonewall Cymru's Rainbow Laces initiative throughout its two week 2018 awareness campaign, whilst continuing to permanently support its values on a year round basis,” the WRU said in a statement.

"Wales' national teams, women's and men's, who are in action this weekend, have also been given access to laces and will be issuing their own personal messages of support in the coming days."

Ireland ruled out their team wearing the laces, saying they would not be able to cope with the number of similar requests.

“As it would be impossible to assist with all requests, we decline the wearing of any emblem, armband, or shoelace (etc) for any one cause, as to do so would be unfair to the many worthy causes that approach us with similar requests,” the IRFU told the Irish Independent.

Asked whether the Wallabies will don the rainbow laces this weekend, Cheika said it would be down to each player to decide if they wanted to do that or indeed for anyone wanting to wear their beliefs on their sleeves, or their shows.

Playmaker Matt To’omua has in the past been an ambassador for similar movements, donning rainbow laces for a Skins “Say no to Homophobia” campaign back in 2016.

“I don't know about it from a team perspective,” he said.

“I think some of the players might have done that before - I think Matt To'omua's done that before, I've definitely seen.

“That will be an individual choice if there is something they want to show, no matter what it is.

“Whether it's that or for another cause or something they're trying to support themselves individually, definitely there's the opportunity for players to do the things they believe in at all times.”

The RFU has an overarching Rainbow Laces campaign running throughout the weekend and England scrum coach Neal Hatley said it would be up to their players as individuals whether they wanted to follow suit.

“While the union is very supportive of what happened and the cause behind it, it's an individual choice,” he said.

“But we're unbelievably supportive around the cause.”

The Wallabies take on England at Twickenham on Saturday November 24, kicking off at 3pm local, Sunday 2am AEDT, LIVE on beIn Sports and SBS.