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Rugby legends surprise clubs by giving them special VoltarolNaturals Unity ball

Rugby legends surprise clubs by giving them special VoltarolNaturals Unity ball

When you first think about rugby your thoughts are likely about muddy pitches, big tackles and huge crowds

When you first think about rugby your thoughts are likely about muddy pitches, big tackles and huge crowds. However, there’s a glaring issue that is now being addressed within the sport, which is inclusivity.

VoltarolNaturals have partnered with SPORTbible to highlight unity within rugby, with the aim of emphasising how the game is for everyone - no matter their gender, sexuality, race or if they have a disability.

In a bid to promote this message, rugby legends across the UK have visited local rugby clubs and academies to gift a special Unity rugby ball, as they look to promote inclusivity in the sport while reflecting on their own development in the game.

VoltarolNaturals have previously enjoyed successful campaigns with Gay Times and Channel 4 to bring stories from within the LGBTQ+ community to the forefront of the conversation. SPORTbible are now eager to build on the strong work already done in conjunction with the brand and will look into the topic from a grassroots level.

Several legends of the sport - including Keegan Hirst, Vicky Fleetwood and Ugo Monye - have visited local clubs to spread the message, while gifting them the special VoltarolNaturals Unity rugby ball.

The ball itself will hopefully encourage those not already in the sport to not be afraid of getting involved, as it aims to spread its symbolic message of inclusion, change and empowerment. The design consists of four panels, each representing an individual’s story from rugby and how they’ve overcome adversity within the sport.

Former England international Monye was one of these legends, he visited his former school, Lords Wandsworth College, to give the ball with the aim of inspiring the next generation to play the game of rugby.

“This VoltarolNaturals Unity Ball represents so many good things about the game of rugby, as well as telling and showcasing the story of people from all different backgrounds,” Monye said to SPORTbible after he revealed he was told the sport ‘wasn’t for’ him at an early age.

He continued: “If you’re from an underrepresented community and feel as if rugby isn’t the sport for you, everyone has the right to move. Give it a go!”

World Cup winner Fleetwood also echoed this message, as she visited the Roebucks academy to give them the ball. She said: “The common perception of rugby is that it’s pretty exclusive, with many communities feeling like it’s not for them. As a woman, I’ve definitely felt that in the past.

“However, things are changing, which is why I’m proud to introduce the VoltarolNaturals Unity Ball. It represents inclusion and that is exactly what rugby prides itself on. No matter your age, gender, ability, shape or size.”

The academy aims to give boys an opportunity to play the game, who may usually face barriers to the sport. It brings individuals together from a range of schools and underrepresented communities, which will hopefully spark a love for the game in future generations.

Finally, Hirst - who was the first Rugby League player to come out as gay - visited the Batley Bulldogs ground to gift the Unity ball to the club that supported him so well when he made the announcement. “Let me tell you what happened when I came out to my teammates,” he said.

Keegan Hirst with the VoltarolNaturals Unity Ball
Keegan Hirst with the VoltarolNaturals Unity Ball

“My fear was that I was going to be shunned, isolated and that I was going to lose everything. This is where the VoltarolNaturals Unity ball comes in, signifying togetherness, unity, strength and inclusivity.

“After I came out, I was embraced. We as a team and a club came together. That’s why this ball and what it represents, is so important to me.”

Hirst finished by saying: “Everybody has a right to move, regardless of gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. You are welcome in rugby.”

Whilst this campaign has been a platform for VoltarolNaturals and SPORTbible to share these inspiring messages of unity to help instigate further conversation within rugby, we all need to continue taking action by embedding these values within the game until inclusivity and equity is true for all.

Featured Image Credit: VoltarolNaturals