Jack Dunne
Jack Dunne could make his Exeter debut against Premiership champions Leicester on Saturday

An imposing 6ft 8in lock is nothing new in the Premiership, but Exeter’s Jack Dunne will be the league’s only openly LGBTQ+ player when he makes his debut for the club.

The 23-year-old summer signing from Leinster follows in the footsteps of Gareth Thomas and former Saracens back Sam Stanley, as well as current Premiership referee Craig Maxwell-Keys and long-serving Welsh official Nigel Owens.

“Hopefully once there are one or two more people it will start to feel that this is something they can say and it won’t be a big thing,” Dunne, who identifies as bisexual, told BBC Sport.

“Hopefully it would be good for other gay or bisexual men to see people like me and hopefully it’ll give them a bit of confidence to be able to be who they are.”

‘If people give me stick that’s their problem’

Jack Dunne
Dunne played five times for Leinster last season and has represented Ireland at under-20 level

Dunne’s former Leinster team-mate Nick McCarthy recently came out as gay and Dunne says telling his family about his sexuality was much more daunting than opening up to his rugby peers.

“All my team-mates back at Leinster, none of them ever had an issue with it, they were all very supportive, so it wasn’t something I really worried about too much,” he said.

“I thought if people were going to give me stick for it that was their problem, not mine, so I wasn’t too concerned about it.

“It was probably tougher coming out to my friends and family back in the day, I’d been OK with it for five years or so, so it wasn’t really a big thing for me when I came out publicly, the personal one was probably bigger than the professional one.”

Dunne is keen to be looked upon and judged purely as a rugby player, and his performances on the field in pre-season training have impressed Exeter’s coaching staff.

“He’s been fantastic around the group and I really like watching him run around, and training and playing,” head coach Ali Hepher told BBC Sport.

“He’s not necessarily the smoothest of operators, but for the absolute effort there is a beauty to that, so we’re just pleased with what he’s doing on the field.

“He’s brought a great energy and has come from an environment that’s really strong, so he brings certain questions and things from that angle.”

Admiration for football’s Daniels

Jake Daniels
Blackpool teenager Jake Daniels came out in May

While rugby union has had a handful of LGBTQ+ players, English professional football has just one, 17-year-old Blackpool player Jake Daniels.

He came out as gay in May – the first active professional player to do so since Justin Fashanu in October 1990.

Dunne says he was impressed with Daniels’ courage to come out, in a sport with so few LGBTQ+ role models.

“That was very brave of Jake as football is probably known a bit more for crowds abusing players, and not even good craic stuff, they obviously do some abuse that’s across the line, so I have a lot of respect for how brave Jake was.

“I’d just encourage everyone to be themselves, and whether it’s the right decision for them to come out in a professional way – it’s up to them to decide.

“I think it’s important to be yourself and hopefully your friends and family will accept you, but in some circles it might not be the wisest thing, so everyone’s in their own situation.

“But I’d hope everyone would be comfortable being themselves.”


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