England’s last 2018 Test against Australia at Twickenham today won’t see Ben Te'o wearing rainbow laces.
The match was intended to help promote LGBT rights charity Stonewall UK, with the RFU providing rainbow laces for the England squad; a tradition begun in 2013 with English and Scottish football teams.
But today’s attempt to raise awareness for Stonewall has taken on special significance in the wake of a homophobic attack upon former Wales captain Gareth Thomas last weekend.
First announcing he was gay in 2009, Thomas appeared bruised and cut in what he said he hoped would be a “positive video” posted on Twitter earlier this week, stating: “Last night I was the victim in my home city of a hate crime for my sexuality."
In 2010, rugby league team Castleford were fined £40,000 when their supporters chanted homophobic abuse at Thomas during his second Super League appearance for the Crusaders.
French Rugby Federation vice-president Serge Simon tweeted on Tuesday that France would wear the laces against Fiji in support of Thomas, as would Wales in their forthcoming clash with South Africa, and New Zealand whilst in Rome this weekend.
But centre Te'o has stated: “I’ll just leave my boots as they are, as I've had them for the autumn.”
So will Bath flanker Sam Underhill, who has already made clear that this is because of “the thickness of the laces.
"They are actually really uncomfortable in my boots and they are really long. I won’t be wearing them, but I fully support the LGBT community. That is something we are all very, very keen that people know.
"So I won’t but it is an incredibly worthy cause, an incredibly important cause, and it is something I am very glad is coming to the fore in terms of support.”
Underhill went on to say: “The reaction to the incident with Gareth Thomas in Cardiff earlier this week was phenomenal.
“The rugby community in general has been hugely positive in its support for the LGBT community.”
England scrum coach Neal Hatley stressed that, whilst the England team were “unbelievably supportive” of the cause, whether the laces were used or not was to be up to the player.