Leinster scrum half Nick McCarthy admits he previously considered leaving professional rugby because of his sexuality after revealing he is gay.
The 27-year-old shared the news publicly on Monday, having already come out to coaches Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster and his teammates.
McCarthy initially feared he would not be able to be openly gay and continue his current job.
But he drew strength from the stories of footballer Josh Cavallo and American footballer Carl Nassib, as well as his bisexual teammate Jack Dunne.
McCarthy said his experience was “quite positive” and described the reaction from Cullen and Lancaster as “amazing”.
“I struggled with coming out for a while and it was starting to affect me and my happiness, so it was the right decision,” he told Leinster’s website.
“It hit me so badly that I was concerned about my future and thought about quitting rugby altogether because I just didn’t think I could come out while playing rugby.
“It’s not common for a male athlete to come out in sport, let alone professional rugby, and it’s probably something I didn’t want to believe or accept myself.
“I had to accept that I was gay myself before I could bring it up with anyone. I have great friends at rugby but I didn’t know how they would take it.
“However, my experience since coming out has been consistently positive. I realized that whoever cares about you just wants you to be happy.”
McCarthy told Cullen and Lancaster in November before informing the rest of the Leinster team in January.
“Leinster rugby is built on ‘brotherhood’ and it’s important that we can be open and honest with each other,” continued the former Ireland Under-20 international.
“I was obviously quite nervous, but I’m really glad I did it. They were all happy for me and it immediately took a load off my shoulders.
“I felt that they understood my situation. It’s hard to look your best when you’re wearing something, anything, and that goes for all guys. For me it was my sexuality, for others it could be things at home or college or whatever.”
Fellow Leinster Dunne revealed his bisexuality last year, around the same time Nassib announced he was gay and a few months before Australian Cavallo made headlines around the world by sharing his news.
“In a way, nothing has changed, which is great,” added McCarthy, who also played for Munster during his career.
“If another person, another kid, continues in their sport because they see a Leinster rugby player come out and be accepted, that would be a great result.
“I would love for people to see from my experience that coming out was really positive and maybe the biggest hurdle is your own head.
“Surround yourself with good people because everyone who cares about you wants the best for you. Your sexuality is just a part of who you are and life is so much better when you can be yourself.”
Leinster and Ireland captain Johnny Sexton said he was proud of McCarthy and that his team-mate was a role model for others.
“I’ve known Nick since he was at the academy so it was hard to hear him speak so openly to us about his struggles, but now we’re just happy for Nick and being able to be himself,” Sexton said.
“We talk a lot in here about taking care of our brothers and the last few months have been about taking care of Nick. And this will continue.
“By speaking openly about his sexuality, Nick will be a role model for others and we couldn’t be prouder of him.”