WELLINGTON: New Zealand forward Ardie Savea said Wednesday that he believes Campbell Johnstone's "courageous" coming out as the first gay All Black could pave the way for other rugby stars.
Johnstone, a 43-year-old former prop who played three Tests for the All Blacks in 2005, came out Monday in a New Zealand television interview.
Savea has captained New Zealand when regular skipper Sam Cane was injured and is a member of the All Blacks' leadership group.
Should a current All Blacks players follow in Johnstone's wake by coming out as gay, Savea is confident they would be accepted by the team.
"In this day and age - you'd get accepted," Savea told reporters in Wellington.
"I think in society now, a lot of people are very accepting of that.
"For me, and as a leader, our team is pretty open.
"We are all about togetherness, regardless of if you are... gay or straight - you are accepted."
His fellow All Blacks team-mates Brad Weber and Aaron Smith have also praised Johnstone, who Savea said has set a precedent in the tough world of New Zealand rugby.
"It takes a lot of courage, especially in rugby circles and how it has been in the past - the old traditions of hard men," Savea added.
"Seeing someone come out I think is pretty courageous. It's awesome."
Johnstone has said he wanted to be the first All Black to come out in order to "take away the stigma and help other people".
Savea feels the ex-prop has achieved his goal.
"I know probably some of the doubts which would have been in his head, but he probably doesn't realise how many people he has helped with what he has done -- big ups to him," Savea added.
"It will allow people to be themselves.
"It's our job as a community to accept it and be able to accept anyone and everyone."