Prince Harry meets gay rugby club

Prince Harry has met with players from one of the UK’s biggest gay rugby clubs.

The young royal, who is fifth in line to the throne, met with the players on Friday as part of his role as Patron of England Rugby.

A number of Manchester Village Spartans to the England Rugby event at Twickenham Stadium after taking part in the ‘Try For Change’ campaign, funded by England Rugby and Sport Relief.

Four Spartans were representing the club’s participants in the project, which seeks use the power of rugby union to improve the lives of disadvantaged or marginalised people in England and across the world.

The Spartans were one of just three groups selected to meet the prince exclusively in the Away Team changing rooms – and chat about their club.

Prince Harry attends the England rugby team’s open training session as they prepare for their next Natwest 6 Nations match, at Twickenham Stadium on February 16, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Heathcliff O’Malley – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Gareth Longley, a Try For Change project coach at Manchester Village Spartans, said: “To be able to chat with HRH Prince Harry about our history as one of the world’s first gay and inclusive rugby clubs; the huge growth in International Gay Rugby that we passionately support and how positive an impact inclusive rugby can have on the mental and physical health of players from within our gay community was a truly valued and unique opportunity.”

After the meeting, the Spartans followed the Royal entourage down the players tunnel at Twickenham, and were able to watch the England International squad’s open training session, sat just behind the Prince.

Prince Harry attends an England Training Session at Twickenham Stadium on February 16, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

The Village Spartans also received a training from England Rugby stars Jonny Wilkinson, Joe Launchbury, Danny Care and Sam Underhill, as Prince Harry watched from the Try line.

Gareth Longley added: “Prince Harry’s passion and enthusiasm for the game was abundant throughout our ten-minute chat.

“It was so motivating to be part of a gay rugby team chatting to such an important member of the British Royal Family and being encouraged to help other LGBT and straight members of our communities give rugby a try.

“To receive such generous funding, support and active encouragement from the bosses and superstars of rugby makes us feel really valued and positive about the future of LGBT engagement in rugby.

“It also a masterclass to other sporting bodies in being proactive about inclusivity and getting more players from LGBT communities to fear less and try team sport.”

The royal family previously maintained a decades-long silence on LGBT issues, but Prince Harry and his brother Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, have shattered the barrier in the past few years.

Prince Harry recently picked up an award from a gay magazine in honour of his late mother Diana.

Making an appearance at the Attitude Awards, Prince Harry spoke about his mother’s amazing legacy on HIV/AIDS.

He said: “In April 1987, my mother was only 25 years old.

“She was still finding her way in public life, but she already felt a responsibility to shine her spotlight on the people and issues that were often ignored.

“She knew that AIDS was one of the things that many wanted to ignore and seemed like a hopeless challenge.

“She knew that the misunderstanding of this relatively new disease was creating a dangerous situation when mixed with homophobia.”

Prince Harry attends an England Training Session at Twickenham Stadium on February 16, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

“She knew exactly what she was doing… she was using her position of princess of Wales – the most famous woman in the world – to challenge everyone to educate themselves; to find their compassion; and to reach out to those who need help instead of pushing them away.”

His mother was named the recipient of the Attitude Legacy Award at the ceremony, 20 years on from her tragic death in 1997.

During the AIDS crisis Princess Diana made many visits both officially and unofficially – and famously shook hands with a patient at the height of HIV stigma.

The charity named in her honour, The Diana Award, now also works to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.

Prince Harry has adopted HIV as one of his key campaigning issues, visiting a number of HIV clinics, attending the International AIDS Conference in South Africa, and speaking about his late mother’s work on the issue.

The Prince previously made headlines by taking a HIV test himself in a Facebook Live video, in an appeal for more people to get tested.

He has also met with activists from HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust.

Meanwhile, Prince William has spoken out about homophobic bullying, also posing for the cover of Attitude Magazine.

“No one should be bullied for their sexuality or any other reason and no one should have to put up with the kind of hate that these young people have endured in their lives,” he told Attitude.

“The young gay, lesbian and transgender individuals I met through Attitude are truly brave to speak out and to give hope to people who are going through terrible bullying right now.

“Their sense of strength and optimism should give us all encouragement to stand up to bullying wherever we see it,” the Prince added.

“What I would say to any young person reading this who’s being bullied for their sexuality: don’t put up with it – speak to a trusted adult, a friend, a teacher, Childline, Diana Award or some other service and get the help you need.

“You should be proud of the person you are and you have nothing to be ashamed of.”