THE Sydney Convicts may be getting all the plaudits for holding high their fourth Bingham Cup, but the tournament itself has come in for even higher praise with the head of rugby union calling the event “phenomenal”.

Australian Rugby Union (ARU) chief executive Bill Pulver who attended the grand final of the gay rugby world cup between the Convicts and Brisbane Hustlers on Sunday, said the tournament was a key part of the sport’s ambition to be more inclusive.

“The Bingham Cup is just the most wonderful reflection of what we’re hoping to achieve and the spirit and joy that’s been attached to this event has been absolutely phenomenal,” Pulver told the Star Observer.

Last week’s announcement that the ARU had signed off on a new anti-homophobia and inclusion policy was a sign that “the core values that we’ve got align themselves perfectly with what the Bingham Cup is trying to achieve,” he said.

Nevertheless, efforts to make the sport more welcoming to gay players needed to go on, Pulver added: “If you look at elite rugby there’s not a lot of guys that have come out and declared their sexuality and as a consequence I suspect that means we’ve still got a fair bit of work to do.”

The rugby chief said the football on display was good quality and the epitome of a tough game.

“[There’s] a lot of big boys out there, very physical, everyone gets on very well, and at the end of it you shake hands and, in this case, [have] a little hug,” he said.

At the tournament’s opening ceremony, NSW Governor Marie Bashir remarked that the respect on show at the cup was an example of the “good Australia,” and she had never before been to an event where there was “so much joy, love, integration and certainly solidarity that we feel together”.

Openly-gay US Ambassador to Australia John Berry also attended Sunday’s final, telling the Star Observer he wanted to cheer all the American teams for coming, despite the distance and cost.

“We’re all very proud of their performance and courage [for] being out and being examples and making it so the next generation will have an easier way to go with civil rights,” he said.

“The Bingham Cup is an example [that] LGBT people can excel at whatever they put their minds and hearts to and that’s really what the cup is here to represent.”

With the next Bingham Cup expected to be held in the USA in 2016 – in either Nashville, Boston or Chicago – Berry said it would give his the city’s citizens a chance “to pay back a little bit of the wonderful hospitality you have all shared with the Americans this week”.

However, he laid down a challenge to the Convicts who, in the most recent competition, had to face fewer US sides with many made up of players from several cities.

“I think they’re going to find when they are playing against a whole team who are used to playing against each other that Americans are a pretty formidable force – they ought not take for granted that we won’t be holding the cup a couple of years from now,” he said.

Bingham Cup Sydney 2014 president Andrew Purchas said: “We had a vision to put on more than a rugby tournament when we decided to host the Bingham Cup.

“We wanted to shine a spotlight on the issues of homophobia in sport [and] this work will continue both in Australia and around the world.”

Watch this video for all the Bingham Cup final day highlights (including the streakers from Manchester):

(Main image: The Sydney Convicts hoist the Bingham Cup at the end of the grand final Photo: Ann-Marie Calilhanna; Star Observer) 

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