Belfast Telegraph

Strictly 'tougher than World Cup'

Former England rugby star Ben Cohen has said playing in a World Cup final was easier than taking part in Strictly Come Dancing.

The 35-year-old was booted into touch from the ballroom contest after failing to out-tackle actor Mark Benton in the dance-off.

Cohen and his partner Kristina Rihanoff racked up just 27 points on Saturday - the lowest score of the night from judges Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli, Darcey Bussell and Craig Revel Horwood - and the panel members stuck to their guns in the crunch head-to-head with Benton.

But the ex-Northampton and England winger said he came into the competition with low expectations, and he believed if he was not voted off this week, he would have been sent home next round.

Speaking after his exit, he said: "It's been a great experience and Kristina has been great. I said I was on borrowed time for a while and it has been an amazing experience."

Asked how the contest compared to his illustrious career in rugby, he said: "When it's your job playing rugby, you're really in your comfort zone, but when you're dancing you're completely out of your comfort zone.

"I've played in a World Cup final, a Heineken Cup final, but I found it easier playing in a World Cup final than being on Strictly."

Cohen said a highlight of his time on the show was working with his dance partner Kristina.

"She's been thrown against a wall, elbowed, stood on, punched - but not on purpose - to make me look like I can dance to a song," he said.

The former sportsman, who became a crowd favourite for characterful performances, hailed the audience for their support after his final performance.

"They jumped out of their seats," he said.

"The crowd erupting was a nice reward for effort."

Cohen admitted after years of being a professional rugby player, he had lost his competitive edge, and said his primary reason for taking part on Strictly was to raise the profile of his anti-bullying and homophobia charity, the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation.

Head judge Len explained his decision to eliminate Cohen: "The thing was they both went wrong.

"For me, one couple made a small mistake and the others made two blatant mistakes and on that basis and on this performance I have to save Mark and Iveta."

Cohen's partner Kristina told him: "If there was a trophy for the most improved person it would go to you.

"You started at zero and have improved every week and you make me so proud every week and I've had the best, most rewarding time on Strictly.

"I took someone with no experience and I brought you here and you were amazing."

During the results show viewers were treated to a surprise appearance from Great British Bakeoff judge Mary Berry, who popped out of a cake as the professional dancers performed the baking-themed show opener.

The programme also featured a performance by the classical four-piece Il Divo, singing Tonight from their Broadway album.

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