(CNN) -- Former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas has spoken of his relief at finally making public the fact he is gay -- and now wants to become a role model for gay people in sport.
Speaking to British news channel ITN, Thomas revealed why it has taken him so long to speak openly about his sexuality.
"Every gay man will tell you that 'coming out' is like a weight lifted from your shoulders and beng able to walk down the street knowing that there is nothing for me to hide has been a liberating experience, " admitted Thomas -- the most capped player in Wales history with 100 appearances for his country.
"I knew I was gay at 18, but to come out then would have meant I would not have achieved what I did in rugby. I loved rugby so much and it was so important to me that I made the decision to keep my sexuality secret. People may disagree with that, but it was my belief and my decision.
"Since my announcement I have had an amazing response and have not had one negative comment or any abuse. I think it proves there is a place for gay men in every walk of life.
"Gay men are accepted in films, music and politics because people came out and broke the mould and stereotype in those industries.
"What I am trying to do is break the trend in rugby and sport in general and show any aspiring sportsman, regardless of his age, that the mould has been broken.
"It is not an issue if a straight man plays rugby -- and I hope my decision will ensure it is not an issue if a gay man plays rugby."