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Sam Stanley Is The First English Rugby Union Player To Come Out As Gay

"It is such a relief," the 23-year-old international centre told The Sunday Times.

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Sam Stanley, a rugby union centre for England Sevens, has come out as gay in an interview with The Sunday Times.

Stanley of England in action against Scotland during the Tokyo Sevens in March 2014.
Atsushi Tomura / Getty Images

Stanley of England in action against Scotland during the Tokyo Sevens in March 2014.

The 23-year-old, from Essex, becomes the first out professional English rugby union player.

Stanley, who comes from a famous rugby family, played for Saracens, as well as for England U16 and U18. He is currently playing for Ealing Trailfinders.

In the Sunday Times interview, Stanley, who realised he may have been gay at age 10 or 11, talked about how he had felt suicidal in the past because of the struggle with his sexuality.

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"I was standing on a bridge about four or five years ago, overlooking a motorway in Essex," he said. "However, looking back, the idea that I would jump was ridiculous, but it was as if I was thinking that I could get rid of the pain in one go.

"You are so worried about what people will think, and I thought I couldn't be a macho rugby player the way I was, and there was nothing else I wanted to do with my life."

Stanley also opened up about his five-year relationship with his partner, Laurence.

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He said: "I fell in love with him pretty early, but we had issues ourselves because he had only just moved out from his own home after more than 20 years of marriage, and having his own children. He was just finding himself as well. I was really happy with him but if there was a bad day I wouldn't be able to share it with anyone else."

Stanley said former rugby player Ben Cohen, an anti-homophobic bullying campaigner, gave him advice before coming out this weekend, and also spoke of ex-player Gareth Thomas, who came out in 2009.

Ben Cohen (second right), pictured with former rugby player Gareth Thomas (left), prime minister David Cameron, and former tennis player Billie Jean King (right) during a 2011 reception in Downing Street to discuss homophobia and transphobia in sport.
Carl Court / PA Archive/Press Association Images

Ben Cohen (second right), pictured with former rugby player Gareth Thomas (left), prime minister David Cameron, and former tennis player Billie Jean King (right) during a 2011 reception in Downing Street to discuss homophobia and transphobia in sport.

Stanley's news comes two weeks after Keegan Hirst became the first British rugby league player to come out, a move that Stanley praised on Twitter.

Fair play @KeeganHirst no more burden 'Captain courageous! British rugby league star is first to come out as gay' http://t.co/HuHTDCaDlv

Stanley is getting his own share of praise for his courage, including from his brother, Mike.

So proud of my little brother, not easy in this days society! Love you uce, be proud of who you are #FtheHaters ✊🏽@Stanley_13

Well done @Stanley_13 You're one of us mate 👊 @stephenjones9

So #proud of @Stanley_13. Always a member of the #SarriesFamily. https://t.co/bzDqPN1zhn

Stanley, whose Instagram also reveals him to be a talented singer, said that he is concerned that athletes still find it so difficult to come out.

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He said: "It is going to be an issue until more people and athletes come out, until it is not an issue at all. It might take years but hopefully, lots of people will find the courage."