Give Ed Balls a break, Rutherford urges Strictly fans
Olympic long jumper Greg Rutherford has pleaded with Strictly Come Dancing viewers to give Ed Balls a break.
Rutherford - who became the latest celebrity to be booted off the dance floor at the weekend - said the former shadow chancellor works as hard as all the other contestants but is constantly being criticised.
Speaking on BBC2 spin-off programme It Takes Two, Rutherford said: "This is a little bit of a plea to some of the people.
"I think people need to get off of Ed's case a little bit if I'm totally honest.
"What people have to understand as well is the fact that he's not as young as some of the other people, and he's obviously not in as great shape as some of the other people and he tries so incredibly hard.
"He has zero dance experience."
Balls is considered by many to be this year's novelty act and regularly comes bottom of the leaderboard in the show.
While he is popular enough to have made it through each episode so far, on social media many viewers have said it is wrong that he remains in with a shot at the glitterball trophy while better dancers are eliminated.
Rutherford said: "What I've noticed ever since the weekend is that there's been a lot of people who get on his case a little bit and I feel like that's actually not fair as he works as hard as anybody else.
"And he's improving, and surely that's what this show is about as well."
Rutherford got his marching orders from the competition after he and his professional partner Natalie Lowe ended up in the dance off alongside gymnast Claudia Fragapane and her partner AJ Pritchard, with the judges opting to save Fragapane.
He told It Takes Two host Zoe Ball that he felt a bit lost when he woke up the day after his elimination with nothing to do.
"I don't really know what to do now. It's bizarre," he said.
"You prep every Saturday night into Sunday ready to get ready for your Monday training again and today, I don't have to train. It was really odd."