London - The Rugby Football Union (RFU) has apologised on Wednesday after being criticised for replicating the Victoria Cross, a medal awarded for military bravery, on England's new team shirts.
Manufactured by Canterbury, England's white home jersey and crimson second shirt feature small rubber grips in the shape of the Victoria Cross designed to give players extra purchase on the ball.
But after the Victoria Cross Trust accused the RFU of using the symbol for "marketing purposes", England's governing body issued an apology.
"We would like to apologise to those who may have taken offence with our new kit," the RFU said in a statement.
"It was certainly never our intention to cause this. We are huge supporters of our service personnel and respect and value their support for England."
The statement added: "We have a longstanding relationship with the Royal British Legion, supporting their poppy appeal at the relevant Twickenham international every year and have helped raise over £2 million for them and for other service charities such as Help for Heroes.
"We will be contacting the Victoria Cross Trust and the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association to see how we can also support their worthwhile work going forwards."
The Victoria Cross is the British and Commonwealth armed forces' most prestigious medal and has only been awarded 1 354 times during its 158-year existence, most recently in 2012.
Gary Stapleton, chairman of the Victoria Cross Trust, hit out at the RFU's decision to include the design on the new shirts, which will be worn for the first time when England host New Zealand on November 8.
"It's very frustrating when you see the image being used for marketing purposes," he told the Daily Telegraph.
"I think about how much work we put in and the volunteers put in and the work we do restoring the VC graves, and here's an organisation that's probably going to make quite a large amount of money from sales of said shirts.
"It would've been a bit more appropriate if they'd said they'd like to do this because they believe what the Victoria Cross represents and would like to benefit a charity that does actually care about the history of the VC."
England head coach Stuart Lancaster has drawn heavily on England's rich rugby history to instil a stronger sense of national pride throughout his tenure as head coach.
Lancaster created the Arthur Harrison Award, where England coaches select a winner after every match for the player who has produced the best defensive performance.
Harrison is England's only rugby international to have received the Victoria Cross, bestowed posthumously after he lost his life in the Zeebrugge raid of April 1918 in the First World War.
England Sevens, meanwhile, launched shirts earlier this year bearing crosses inspired by the George Cross military medal.
In an earlier joint statement with Canterbury, the RFU had said: "The grip detail takes inspiration from the Victoria Cross and drawing on this symbol of valour is something of which England Rugby and Canterbury are honoured and very proud."