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Elitism of rugby is slowly changing

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: (left to right) England’s Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Luther Burrell and Marland Yarde

RUGBY LEGEND Jason Robinson has hailed the black contingent in England’s Six Nations’ winning squad.

The likes of Maro Itoje, Jonathan Joseph, Luther Burrell, Courtney Lawes, Anthony Watson and Marland Yarde might have failed in their Grand Slam bid with defeat to Ireland on 18 March but Robinson is of the opinion that the sextet’s presence confIrms the changing landscape for a sport that is often considered elitist.

Robinson told The Voice:

“It’s massively important to see the input of these guys.

“We all have people we look up to. And if you’re a black man you don’t have to look up to another black man but it certainly makes a difference. Growing up to see another black man doing well gives you the confidence that you can do it.

“So the fact that I’ve done it and the fact that the likes of Lawes, Joseph and Itoje are breaking through is immense and can make a difference to the black guys that don’t always have the access to play rugby.

“Rugby Union is a public schools thing and I wasn’t brought up in that environment. There was no sliver spoon in my mouth and had to do it the hard way.”

LEADER: Jason Robinson

Leeds-born Robinson, a former dual-code international rugby league and rugby union player of the 1990s and 2000s, was speaking at the recent British Ethnic Diversity Sports Awards (BEDSAs) held in central London where he collected the Lifetime Achievement award.

Known as ‘Billy Whizz’ for his raw speed, Robinson played at wing or fullback, won 51 caps for England while winning the 2003 World Cup and in rugby league he won twelve caps for Great Britain and seven for England.

Of his accolade he added:

“It means a lot to me. It’s not every day that you win a Lifetime Achievement award.

“Speaking to a few people that grew up in the same area as me, a lot of things come back and you just think how far you’ve come.

“It’s nice to sometimes reflect on the journey and celebrate that journey which is what we’re all here to do tonight.

“All my family still live in the area that I grew up in. It’s important overall that the more Black and Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) people we see in sport will make a massive difference.”

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