London - England Sevens international Sam Stanley came out as gay in a British newspaper interview published on Sunday, becoming the first English professional rugby union player to do so.
Stanley, 23, has played in five Sevens World Series tournaments for England and comes from a renowned rugby-playing family.
His uncle is Joe Stanley, a World Cup-winner with New Zealand in 1987, his brother Mike is in the Samoa squad for the forthcoming World Cup and his cousins Winston and Benson play for Harlequins and Clermont respectively.
"I was 10 or 11 when I realised I was different to my friends," Stanley told the Sunday Times.
"I didn't want to accept it, I felt that being different wasn't right. I had a girlfriend and I was thinking that, like some people say, maybe it is a phase."
Previously with Saracens, Stanley currently plays for Ealing Trailfinders in England's second-tier Championship.
Former Wales international Gareth Thomas was previously the only British rugby union player to have come out while still playing, having revealed his sexuality while with Cardiff Blues in 2009.
Leading Welsh referee Nigel Owens is also openly gay.
Keegan Hirst, who plays for Batley Bulldogs, became the first British rugby league player to come out as gay last month.
Meanwhile, several sportsmen in the United States have recently come out as gay, including baseball player David Denson of the Milwaukee Brewers, Jason Collins in the NBA and Robbie Rogers in Major League Soccer.
Stanley added: "It is going to be an issue until more people and athletes come out, until it is not an issue at all. It might take years, but hopefully lots of people will find the courage."