Joe Root's riposte has boosted fight against homophobia in sport, says Tom Wood
Northampton Saints and England stars James Haskell and Tom Wood hail Root at special Gallagher Premiership training session with LGBT-inclusive club Northampton Outlaws
By Jon Holmes and James Gemmell
Last Updated: 14/02/19 8:53pm
Joe Root's riposte to the Windies' Shannon Gabriel during this week's Test cricket match has been praised by England rugby stars James Haskell and Tom Wood.
Northampton Saints duo Haskell and Wood have been speaking to Sky Sports at a special training session hosted by Gallagher, the title sponsor of Premiership Rugby.
The recipients of the session, Northampton Outlaws, were the winners of a nationwide 'Train With Your Heroes' competition. They are the only gay and LGBT-inclusive rugby union club in the East Midlands, and recently embarked on a major local recruitment campaign.
Taking time away from training, the players were asked for their views on Root's comments to fast bowler Gabriel during play in the third Test in St Lucia, with the England skipper heard to say 'don't use it as an insult, there's nothing wrong with being gay'.
Gabriel has since revealed he asked Root 'do you like boys?' as their sporting duel escalated, adding in a statement he is deeply sorry for his words.
"It's a really strong message that Joe Root sent doing that," said Wood, who has won over 50 caps for his country.
"It's important for people to see - any young kids watching that, perhaps feeling discrimination and oppression, to see somebody of his calibre make a stand like that, they're going to feel that much more empowered moving forwards."
Haskell concurred with his Saints team-mate, adding the incident should serve as a reminder to everyone in sport about use of language.
"I'm very careful about going too hard at these kind of things because I'm not whiter than white," admitted the 33-year-old.
"I've used homophobic parlance. I think a lot of people have. But I think it's important, like Joe Root did, to correct where appropriate. Certainly at Northampton and with England, that kind of stuff doesn't feature."
Wood also believes rugby union is benefiting from a heightened awareness around LGBT inclusion.
"There are some high-profile individuals within the game that are really leading the way and setting a great example - you think of people like Nigel Owens and Gareth Thomas," he added. "We're starting to get there."
Haskell points to the success of the Rainbow Laces campaign in rugby, and the role the Outlaws and other LGBT-inclusive clubs play in bringing more people into the game.
"For a lot of people, there is a struggle," he said. "I think some people aren't as accepting as they should be, and clubs like the Outlaws are great because they show how inclusive our sport can be."
The Outlaws are one of several clubs who will benefit from the Gallagher initiative throughout the 2018/19 season, with the company championing heroes of the game, and shining a light on the individuals and groups within the wider rugby community that embody the spirit of rugby and help make it an inclusive and empowering sport.
Watch Wood and Haskell give their views on the Joe Root incident and the issue of homophobia in sport in the video at the top of the page.