UK rugby star Sacha Harding has advised gay athletes to come out.

The 28-year-old Harding, who plays for the Bedford Blues, recently appeared naked on the cover of UK glossy Gay Times' The Naked Issue to support Elton John's AIDS Foundation.

In an interview with gay glossy The Advocate, Harding, who last year was voted Britain's “manliest man,” said he is flattered by his gay following and encouraged closeted teammates to come to out.

“Someone's sexual preference shouldn't have any effect on whether some can be professional sportsmen,” Harding said. “They should be appreciated for their talent.”

When asked what advice he had for a teammate considering whether to come out as gay, Harding answered: “I would say that the only people that matter will understand anyway. Life is too short to worry about what people think and let that dictate your life. Do what makes you happy.”

On appearing on the cover of Gay Times, Harding said he was more than happy to help raise awareness for Elton John's AIDS Foundation.

(A video of Harding's W London hotel Gay Times photo shoot is embedded in the right panel. Visit our video library for more videos.)