THE York RI Templars were given a surprise when England star Joe Marler joined their recent video call.

The Templars met up on a call to mark Pride 2020 and were star-struck when Marler - who has played 66 times for England - appeared on their screens.

York RI Templars are an inclusive rugby team affiliated with York RI who were established last summer to widen participation in the sport and provide a welcoming and comfortable space for GBTQ+ individuals.

Marler spoke with Templars’ Josh Cunnington, Connor Briggs and Andrew Malcolm-Neale about the origins of the team and the need for inclusivity within sport.

“I can’t fathom and I can’t get my head around that someone would want to be mean to somebody else because he loves another guy, or she loves another girl,” said Marler, who played for England during the 2019 World Cup and for the British and Irish Lions in their 2017 tour to New Zealand.

“The behaviours and the language have to change and that starts with education.”

Captain Cunnington explained that, according to a survey, four in ten LGBT people feel unwelcome in sport, and that the aim of their team is “to get those people to come and join and fit in.

“We say that no matter their body shape, their sexual orientation, their ability, their knowledge, if they’ve never picked up a rugby ball before they are welcome with us.”

Briggs, the club’s secretary said: “It was such a privilege to have Joe Marler join us for a conversation.

“Whilst things are slowly getting better, there’s still lots to do about discrimination in sport, and having someone of prominence publicly show their support for the LGBT+ community makes a massive difference.”