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Courtney Lawes: England captain calls for those directing racism at Luther Burrell to be exposed

Luther Burrell, who won 15 caps for England, says racism is “rife” in rugby; Courtney Lawes admits issue “needs to be addressed” at clubs involved; watch England’s tour of Australia live this month on Sky Sports Action

Last Updated: 01/07/22 10:42pm



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Catch all the action from England’s tour of Australia, Scotland’s tour of Argentina, Wales’ tour of South Africa and Ireland’s tour of New Zealand – live on Sky Sports.

Catch all the action from England’s tour of Australia, Scotland’s tour of Argentina, Wales’ tour of South Africa and Ireland’s tour of New Zealand – live on Sky Sports.

England captain Courtney Lawes believes that anyone found to have been the source of the racism directed at Luther Burrell should be publicly exposed.

Burrell revealed in a newspaper interview with the Mail on Sunday that he had been racially abused by team-mates, including receiving comments about bananas, fried chicken and slavery.

Newcastle, his most recent club, are investigating to determine whether the incidents outlined by the former England centre took place during his two years at Kingston Park, while the Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby have apologised.

Damian Hopley, chief executive of the Rugby Players Association says that the experience that Luther Burrell has highlighted over racism in the sport can provide an opportunity to make proper change.

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Damian Hopley, chief executive of the Rugby Players Association says that the experience that Luther Burrell has highlighted over racism in the sport can provide an opportunity to make proper change.

Damian Hopley, chief executive of the Rugby Players Association says that the experience that Luther Burrell has highlighted over racism in the sport can provide an opportunity to make proper change.

Lawes is friends with Burrell – the pair have been team-mates at Northampton and with England – and while he has not encountered racism in the same way, he insists it must be rooted out wherever it surfaces.

“I had a problem with him saying that racism is rife in rugby,” said Lawes on the eve of Saturday’s first Test against Australia in Perth. “If I’m honest, that’s not been my experience. But if that kind of stuff is going on in certain clubs, it needs to be addressed.

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July 2, 2022, 10:15am

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“I read the article and I was shocked about the stuff that’s been said to Luther because at most clubs – knowing the boys from different clubs who come into the England camp – it just wouldn’t be accepted. It’s not even a joke, it’s way beyond that.

“I’m feeling for him and I’m not sure what’s going on up there, but it’s absolutely not acceptable. I agree with Ellis Genge – I think the person or people who are doing that need to be outed, because it’s just not acceptable in our game.

Courtney Lawes admits he was surprised to be asked to continue as England captain for the tour of Australia.

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Courtney Lawes admits he was surprised to be asked to continue as England captain for the tour of Australia.

Courtney Lawes admits he was surprised to be asked to continue as England captain for the tour of Australia.

“We need to squash this. We need to find out what is happening and if it’s happening at any other clubs. We need to get it sorted. We want rugby to be the best version of rugby it can be. We don’t want things like that going on in the game.

“That’s why I was surprised that at any club, any colour of player would accept that kind of behaviour. It’s tough because Luther’s a close friend of mine, but I was disappointed that he didn’t call it out at the time.

England head coach explains his decision to stick with Courtney Lawes as captain, but insists the door remains open for Owen Farrell to return to the role.

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England head coach explains his decision to stick with Courtney Lawes as captain, but insists the door remains open for Owen Farrell to return to the role.

England head coach explains his decision to stick with Courtney Lawes as captain, but insists the door remains open for Owen Farrell to return to the role.

“Being the player he is, 35 and a senior guy, he should have been addressing that but he knows that. But I feel for him so I’ll send him a message and see what he’s up to.”

Burrell’s revelations have shone a light on racism in rugby, but in Lawes’ eyes the sport has another issue that must also be tackled.

“The class thing is the main thing. We’ve got loads of private school lads at Saints and, to be honest, I take the p*** out of them far more than they would the other way round!” the lock said. “It’s just about getting the opportunities for kids from working-class backgrounds. If I hadn’t gone to Northampton School for Boys, I’d have never played rugby.

England's Jamie George says he is 'gutted' to hear about former England centre Luther Burrell's experience of racism throughout his playing career.

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England’s Jamie George says he is ‘gutted’ to hear about former England centre Luther Burrell’s experience of racism throughout his playing career.

England’s Jamie George says he is ‘gutted’ to hear about former England centre Luther Burrell’s experience of racism throughout his playing career.

“So I got lucky and it’s probably the same for Ellis Genge and a few other boys who come from backgrounds which are not full of wealth. It’s about making the game accessible for everyone and if you do that, you will see lots of different kinds of people and different colours of people playing the game.

“That will be better for rugby as a whole and for society in general, because we’re all people. We all bleed the same. A lot of the time, you actually have quite a lot in common with people from different backgrounds.”

England enter Saturday’s series opener against the Wallabies as underdogs to secure a ninth successive victory in the fixture, with coverage live on Sky Sports Action from 10.15am on Saturday ahead of a 10.55am kick off.

15 Freddie Steward, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Joe Cokanasiga, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care; 1 Ellis Genge, 2 Jamie George, 3 Will Stuart, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 Jonny Hill, 6 Courtney Lawes (c), 7 Tom Curry, 8 Billy Vunipola

Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Ollie Chessum, 20 Lewis Ludlam, 21 Jack van Poortlviet, 22 Guy Porter, 23 Henry Arundell.

Bumper July of rugby on Sky Sports

As well as showing England in Australia this summer, Sky Sports will show Ireland’s five-match tour of New Zealand, Wales’ three-Test tour of South Africa and Scotland’s three-Test tour of Argentina.

Wednesday, June 29

Maori All Blacks vs Ireland – live on Sky Sports Action from 8am (kick off is at 8.05am)

Saturday, July 2

New Zealand vs Ireland – live on Sky Sports Action from 7:30am (kick-off at 8:05am)

Australia vs England – live on Sky Sports Action from 10:15am (kick-off at 10:55am)

South Africa vs Wales – live on Sky Sports Action from 3:30pm (kick-off at 4:05pm)

Live International Rugby Union

July 2, 2022, 3:30pm

Live on

Argentina vs Scotland – live on Sky Sports Action from 7:30pm (kick-off at 8:10pm)

Saturday, July 9

New Zealand vs Ireland – live on Sky Sports Action from 7:30am (kick-off at 8:05am)

Australia vs England – live on Sky Sports Action from 10:15am (kick-off at 10:55am)

South Africa vs Wales – live on Sky Sports Action from 3:30pm (kick-off at 4:05pm)

Argentina vs Scotland – live on Sky Sports Action from 7:30pm (kick-off at 8:10pm)

Tuesday, July 12

Maori All Blacks vs Ireland – live on Sky Sports Action from 8am (kick off is at 8.05am)

Saturday, July 16

New Zealand vs Ireland – live on Sky Sports Action from 7:30am (kick-off at 8:05am)

New Zealand's Scott Barrett and Codie Taylor say they will draw on previous experience against Ireland when they meet at Eden Park on Saturday.

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New Zealand’s Scott Barrett and Codie Taylor say they will draw on previous experience against Ireland when they meet at Eden Park on Saturday.

New Zealand’s Scott Barrett and Codie Taylor say they will draw on previous experience against Ireland when they meet at Eden Park on Saturday.

Australia vs England – live on Sky Sports Action from 10:15am (kick-off at 10:55am)

South Africa vs Wales – live on Sky Sports Action from 3:30pm (kick-off at 4:05pm)

Argentina vs Scotland – live on Sky Sports Action from 7:30pm (kick-off at 8:10pm)



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