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ESPN SCRUM / New Zealand / News
New Zealand
NZ rugby 'last bastion of sexual inequality'
ESPN Staff
January 28, 2014

New Zealand rugby remains one of the last bastions of discrimination by sexual orientation, says a gay former top player who never felt comfortable enough to reveal his sexuality during his playing days and even had "fake girlfriends".

Ryan Sanders, who represented Buller and Canterbury B in the early 2000s, and who played professionally for Edinburgh in Scotland, told Fairfax Media that "we are making a lot of steps forward in terms of sexual equality and, with rugby being New Zealand's No.1 sport, it is the last hurdle that we need to take".

"I know the gay All Black thing gets brought up a fair bit but I think it would be amazing if someone does come out - I am sure there is one or two," Sanders said. "It's the last hurdle but it will take the right person with broad enough shoulders to be able to bear that initial brunt.

"It's crazy when you think how long ago [former Manly, New South Wales and Australia rugby league forward] Ian Roberts went public [in 1994]. I remember that and thinking 'wow, that is really cool'."

Several leading players have come out as gay in recent years, including former Wales rugby international Gareth Thomas, and Sanders believes there has "definitely" been a gay All Blacks player even though no one has ever come out publicly.

"The value will come when an All Black comes out during his rugby career," Sanders told Fairfax Media. "I can honestly say that would have made a massive difference to me. For me, it would have been huge if I was young and growing up and an All Black had come out as gay."

"I think there are definitely a lot more gay people playing rugby - it is one of the last bastions of sexual inequality."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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