Ben Cohen and Will Greenwood surprised amateur teams to celebrate the Rainbow Laces campaign

World Cup winners Will Greenwood and Ben Cohen have joined gay referee Nigel Owens to surprise two LGBT+ inclusive teams.

The rugby legends shocked and enthralled players of Bristol Bisons and Northampton Outlaws to raise awareness of Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign.

When the Bisons players arrived at Clifton Rugby Club to play their league match against Northampton, they found Greenwood and Cohen waiting to meet them in the changing room.

The 2003 Rugby World Cup-winning duo presented the squad with fresh match kits, featuring Aviva Pride and Stonewall as kit sponsors.

Also included in the package were Rainbow Laces for their boots, as part of Stonewall’s initiative to improve visibility for LGBT+ sportspeople.

The duo then announced they were playing in the match too, with star referee Nigel Owens taking charge.

(Henry Browne/Getty Images for Barbarians)

After a typically bruising game, Greenwood praised inclusive teams, saying: “Rugby clubs like Bristol Bisons are so crucial to the local community.

“We’ve come to the South West to surprise a safe, welcoming, friendly club, where anyone can turn up to play a game and be accepted.

“They’re able to walk into the clubhouse, share a story with their friends and find themselves at the heart of their local club.

“Rugby clubs are amazing places to connect with wonderful people, and I think the more welcoming we can make them, the more clubs like Bristol Bisons and Northampton Outlaws that we can help up and down the country, [the more they] will continue to help make rugby such a welcoming, family-friendly sport.”

Bristol Bisons, founded in 2005, is one of the only LGBT+ inclusive rugby clubs in the region and one of just 11 recognised across the country.

They offer an inclusive and secure space to play the game and work to forge a safe environment for players and supporters of all abilities in Bristol, Somerset, and South Gloucestershire to join; instrumental for the LGBT+ communities in the areas.

Owens is one of the only figures in professional rugby to have come out.

Nigel Owens.

Alongside former Wales captain, Gareth Thomas, Owens has spoken publicly about his battle with his sexuality.

“Refereeing that World Cup final between Australia and New Zealand in front of 85,000 people and the millions of people watching at home, scrutinising every single decision you make under a huge amount of pressure, was nothing compared to the challenge of accepting who I was,” he said earlier this year.

Ben Cohen retired in 2011 to set-up the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation.

It is known as “the world’s first foundation dedicated to raising awareness of the long-term, damaging effects of bullying, and funding those doing real-world work to stop it”.