IN a repeat of their Bingham Cup quarter final clash, the Sydney Convicts will meet the Melbourne Chargers later this month in what is being billed as the first time two gay rugby teams have competed as part of a professional sporting event.

The gay global champs from NSW will take on the Bingham Plate winners from Victoria at Melbourne’s AAMI Park on February 20 ahead of the interstate Super Rugby clash between the Waratahs and the Rebels.

The Convicts may well get a sense of déjà vu – in July they became the world’s first gay team to play at a professional rugby match when they took on Macquarie University at Sydney’s Allianz Stadium before the NSW vs New Zealand clash.

The 30-12 defeat of Macquarie came just weeks before the Convicts romped home against the Brisbane Hustlers 31-0 to claim the Bingham Cup trophy.

Victoria’s newly-installed minister for sport, John Eran, said the government supported widening participation in sport: “Australian Rugby and the Rebels have committed a lot of energy in promoting the inclusiveness of the game, and the Melbourne Chargers are wonderful ambassadors for our state.”

Rebels chief executive Peter Leahy said they were looking forward to welcoming the two gay and inclusive teams to AAMI Park.

“We are immensely proud to make history with this curtain raiser, and to show our continual support for the Melbourne Chargers and inclusion in Rugby; it truly is the sport of inclusion.”

Melbourne Chargers President Daniel Syrus said while the Convicts might be favourites to win he believed the world champions could be beaten in the first game of the season.

“We have ramped up our playing abilities over the last few years, and it’s a great opportunity to showcase the team and what we are doing.

“Rugby is a family,” he said, “it has a place for everyone in any capacity, from players, supporters, sponsors, coaches, and supporting staff.

Talking to the Star Observer, Convicts president Robert McPherson said the team was training hard with as many as eight players form the Cup-winning side heading to the southern capital: “It will certainly be a competitive match but I don’t think it will be a tight contest.”

Australian Rugby Union have been widely praised for their efforts to combat discrimination with many of the game’s leading players becoming ambassadors for last year’s Bingham Cup and the sport signing up to the Anti-Homophobia and Inclusion Framework.

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