Celebrating inclusivity in sport with the help of a couple of rugby legends

In November, I joined England rugby legends Ben Cohen and Will Greenwood as they paid a surprise visit to the South West’s premiere inclusive, gay-friendly rugby club, the Bristol Bisons.

As the Bisons arrived at Clifton Rugby Club to play their league fixture against fellow inclusive side Northampton Outlaws, they couldn’t believe their eyes when they discovered the England World Cup winning duo waiting to greet them in the changing rooms. Ben and Will presented the Bisons with a brand new kit and Rainbow Laces for their boots, to celebrate the fantastic work the club are doing to promote inclusivity, before announcing they would also be playing in the match.

As if that wasn’t enough, Will gave the teams one final surprise as he revealed that international referee Nigel Owens would take charge of the fixture, fresh from officiating at Twickenham the previous day.

After an entertaining game of rugby, the match ended in a well-deserved draw thanks to a late try from Ben which gave Will the chance to level the scores with the final kick of the match and make it 29-29.

Before and after the match, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Ben, Will and Nigel, who were happy to share their experiences and answer questions about their careers, whether they miss playing and what they really thought of that questionable forward pass in the England versus Argentina match – they agreed the pass looked forward, but surprisingly there were mixed emotions about playing again.

It was clear to see that Ben and Will enjoyed being back on the pitch together after so many years, and that the values of rugby that they knew from their playing days were still just as important in today’s game. 

 If this event proved anything, it’s that clubs such as Bristol Bisons are crucial to the local community and that rugby and its values have something to offer everyone.

This surprise is just one of a number of activities Aviva has done to promote LGBT inclusion in sport. In support of Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign, Aviva handed out over 32,000 Rainbow Laces to fans including those at the six Aviva Premiership matches played between 24-26 November.

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