England captain declares sexuality ‘doesn’t matter’ in rugby ahead of women’s Six Nations

England’s rugby union captain Marlie Packer has praised the inclusivity of the sport and encouraged people to get involved in the game in an exclusive interview with PinkNews.

Marlie Packer, last year’s world player of the year, spoke to PinkNews at the immersive art exhibition, Frameless, in London alongside the other nations’ skippers, ahead of the 2024 Guinness Women’s Six Nations tournament, which begins on Saturday (23 March). 

“Rugby is inclusive for all and that’s the bit I love about the sport,” Packer said. “It doesn’t matter about your sexuality, your size, your skin colour – it’s for everyone.” 

The Saracens loose forward added that she has never faced any issues over her own sexuality within the game and insisted that “queer women in the sport are accepted”. She urged people who think rugby might not be for them, to give it a go, saying there are different ways to get involved and that it is about the community.

“It’s about the friendships you build, I’ve built many friendships over the years, but also it’s given me the opportunity to see the world, which I would never have been able to do.” 

England captain Marlie Packer holds the Six Nation trophy, alongside (L-R) Elisa Giordano, Italy’s captain, Hannah Jones, the Wales captain, France’s skipper Manaé Feleu, Rachel Malcolm, Scotland captain, and Edel McMahon, the Ireland captain, ahead of this year’s competition, which begins at the weekend. (David Rogers/Getty Images)

England are looking to take home a sixth successive women’s Six Nations title, following last year’s Grand Slam where they beat France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. They face the Italians at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, in Parma, in their opening game – which will be Packer’s 100th outing for her country.

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“We’re excited to get this tournament kicked off [on Sunday], but we need to make sure that we focus on just that game, make sure we perform there, then it’s on to the next one,” she said. 

Marlie Packer and her England teammates celebrate winning the Six Nations trophy at Twickenham last year. (Photo by Paul Harding – RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Packer is optimistic about the growth of women’s rugby, following the huge crowds at games last year. 

The team’s final match against France at Twickenham last April set a record-breaking crowd for a women’s match, with 58,498 fans going through the turnstiles, beating the previous record of 42,579 at the 2021 World Cup final at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand. 

“As a player, that is what I want to be running out in front of. My goal is to help England, the Red Roses, achieve selling out Twickenham. Everyone wants to beat world records and I think you’ll see that this Six Nations. 

“The fan base is growing and growing. We, as players, just need to make sure we keep putting the product on the field, putting in the performances, backing them up week-in, week-out, and growing each time.”

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