England slammed over use of Victoria Cross emblem on new rugby kits
The Rugby Football Union has been criticised for its use of the Victoria Cross emblem on new England kits launched this week.
The Victoria Cross, the British and Commonwealth armed forces' most prestigious medal, has only been awarded 1,354 times during its 158-year existence, most recently in 2012.
England's new Canterbury-manufactured shirts - the traditional white jersey and a new crimson alternate shirt - feature Victoria Cross designs that comprise numerous small rubber grips to help deaden the impact of the ball.
The new white shirt will be worn for the first time when England kick off their autumn Test schedule by hosting world champions New Zealand on November 8.
But Gary Stapleton, chairman of the Victoria Cross Trust, has hit out at the move.
"It's very frustrating when you see the image being used for marketing purposes," he told the Daily Telegraph.
"I think about how much work we put in and the volunteers put in and the work we do restoring the VC graves, and here's an organisation that's probably going to make quite a large amount of money from sales of said shirts.
"It would've been a bit more appropriate if they'd said they'd like to do this because they believe what the Victoria Cross represents and would like to benefit a charity that does actually care about the history of the VC."
England head coach Stuart Lancaster has drawn heavily on England's rich rugby history to instil a stronger sense of national pride throughout his tenure as head coach.
Lancaster created the Arthur Harrison Award, where England coaches select a winner after every match for the player producing the best defensive performance.
Harrison is England's only rugby international to be awarded the Victoria Cross, bestowed posthumously after he lost his life in the Zeebrugge raid of April 1918 in the First World War.
England Sevens, meanwhile, launched shirts earlier this year bearing crosses inspired by the George Cross military medal.
In a joint statement with Canterbury, the RFU said: "The grip detail takes inspiration from the Victoria Cross and drawing on this symbol of valour is something of which England Rugby and Canterbury are honoured and very proud.
"We have raised a significant sum overs the years for military charities such as Help for Heroes.
"For every international England Rugby hosts a group of injured service personnel and provides complimentary Twickenham tickets to several service charities.
"We have a long-standing relationship with the Royal British Legion and support their poppy appeal at the relevant Twickenham international every year."
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