The global champions of gay rugby, the Sydney Convicts, will be scrumming down and stripping off to raise money for their title defence next year.

Team manager Iain Jepsen said 10 of the Convicts’ sexiest members will shed their garments at the Midnight Shift on 23 June for Rugger Bugger V.

“There will be a select group of players to cater for all tastes,” he said. “Some smooth and muscular to the more Rubensesque, and some old favourites from our sell-out show last year.”

Jepsen said the burly boys would be joined on stage by drag queen Sheila Blige. But what is it about a group of gay rugby players that gets the punters so excited?

“There’s always been the locker room thing,” Jepsen said. “That, and the Sydney Convicts have that heady smell of jockstraps, liniment and Issey Miyake.”

Although in their five years of stripping off there’s never been a Tom Jones-esque moment of underwear being thrown at the stage, Jepsen believes “the things we take off are of high demand on eBay”.

“But we’re not just all about rooting; it’s about rugby more than anything else.”

The team plays in the Sydney suburban rugby union competition, bringing them face to face with teams from all over the city. The team is currently fourth on the ladder after putting together a string of successful matches.

“We wondered what the other team we’re going to play tell their wives and girlfriends,” Jepsen said of the straight teams coming to terms with their regular losses to the Convicts.

A successful Rugger Bugger V will put the Convicts on track to enter next year’s Bingham Cup – the World Cup of gay rugby.

The Convicts were undefeated in the Bingham Cup and Bingham Plate divisions at the last event held in New York in 2006. The 2008 cup will be held in Dublin, where the Convicts will once again face their rugby arch rivals, the San Francisco Fog.

Jepsen isn’t worried though and says he has “quiet confidence” in his teammates.

“Besides,” he says, “if it came to a competition between the Convicts and the Fog as to who was better in the buff, we’d beat them hands down.”

Tickets to Rugger Bugger V are $20 in advance and $25 on the door. They are available from the Midnight Shift now.

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