Gareth Thomas, the former Wales Rugby captain has come out as gay in an emotional interview with the Daily Mail. He becomes one of just a handful of openly gay sportsmen.

Thomas who also captained the Lions was married to teenage sweetheart Jemma between 2002 and 2006.

But the marriage broke down after he admitted to himself and his wife that he is gay. He said the secret was “like a tight knot in my stomach, always threatening to seep out.”

“I was like a ticking bomb. I thought I could suppress it, keep it locked away in some dark corner of myself, but I couldn’t,” he told the Daily Mail.

“It was who I was, and I just couldn’t ignore it any more.

“I’d been through every emotion under the sun trying to deal with this.

“You wake up one morning thinking: ‘I can handle it. Everything is fine,’ and the next morning you don’t want anyone to see your face, because you think that if people look at you, they will know.”

He and his wife suffered with three miscarriages and after they split up, he came out to a coach.

“Scott Johnson, a great man, came up to me in the dressing room after the game for a chat and I just broke down in tears.

“He said: ‘What’s up?’ ‘I said: ‘Me and Jemma have split,’ and he said: ‘Oh no, what’s happened?’ Then he said: ‘I know what’s happened, I know what it is.’”

Thomas told the Daily Mail that the coach then told two of his team mates, Stephen Jones and Martyn Williams, who then said to Thomas: “We don’t care. Why didn’t you tell us before?”

PinkNews.co.uk was told by a number of sources that it was an open secret within Welsh rugby and the wider community that Thomas is gay. He says: “My parents, my family and my friends all love me and accept me for who I am, and even if the public are upset by this, I know the love of those people who mean the most to me will never change.

“I’m not going on a crusade, but I’m proud of who I am. I feel I have achieved everything I could ever possibly have hoped to achieve out of rugby, and I did it being gay.

“I want to send a positive message to other gay people that they can do it, too.’

He told the Daily Mail: “Just because you are gay, it doesn’t mean you fancy every man who walks the planet… “I don’t want to be known as a gay rugby player. I am a rugby player first and foremost. I am a man.”

Explaining why he’s only come out publicly now, Thomas explained that rugby is “the toughest, most macho of male sports, and with that comes an image.

“In many ways, it is barbaric, and I could never have come out without first establishing myself and earning respect as a player.

“Rugby was my passion, my whole life, and I wasn’t prepared to risk losing everything I loved.”

Dónal Óg Cusack, the hurling star who recently revealed he was gay said his mother will not attend his matches because of the homophobic abuse she hears.

The 32-year-old, who plays in goal for Cork All Stars, said: “My mother doesn’t go to games anymore. The stress is too much.

“My sister Treasa has been deeply upset a few times by what she has heard.

“I hate what it does to those around me, especially when it doesn’t hurt me at all.”

Last year, former NBA basketball star John Amaechi came out and said that the negative reaction he received was very much limited to the USA. He told PinkNews.co.uk: “I knew it would be fuss-worthy, especially in America. But it’s very weird really because over here if you didn’t know you just weren’t paying attention.”