Leicester Tigers star Geoff Parling within a whisker of beating George Clooney in a sexy beard competition
Leicester Tigers star Geoff Parling came within a whisker of beating Hollywood heart throb George Clooney in an international sexy beard competition.
It was close shave but the organisers of the contest – called My Hairy Valentine – decided the England player and the American actor should share the title.
The pair beat Mr Parling's Tigers teammate Italian Martin Castrogiovanni into third place.
The Leicester duo and Mr Clooney collected more votes than a host of international stars including footballer David Beckham and actors Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Ben Affleck and Brian Blessed.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
Mr Parling, who is an ambassador for Tigers kit sponsors Canterbury, said he was delighted with his award and joked he was having dinner with Mr Clooney to celebrate.
He said: "It's good that people have realised it's not about defined cheekbones, gelled hair and dressing 'fashionably', and that unkempt beards with grey stragglers and bits of lunch in it are a good thing!
"I would have personally gone for Brian Blessed as behind his beard is such a powerful voice, but it's nice that myself and George can share the award.
"I'm having him over for dinner later to celebrate."
The international award, organised by pro-beard campaign group the Beard Liberation Front (BLF), is voted for on social media websites and announced on Valentine's Day.
It is the first time leading hirsute rugby players have featured in the awards.
BLF organiser Keith Flett said: "Voting was so close that we had no choice but to decide My Hairy Valentine was better shared this year.
"Martin was a close third, so it seems the rugged rugby players have thrown off the old cauliflower-eared Neanderthal image and are now seen as modern and sexy.
"George Clooney's beard is well known for its attractiveness but the impact of hirsute rugby players is a new development, reflecting an increasing diversity of views on what makes a sexy beard."
Mr Flett said 2,000 votes were cast in the awards this year, making it the best supported year so far since the competition was launched in 2005.
"While we don't do a detailed analysis of the voters, it is fair to say about 75 per cent of the voters were female," said Mr Flett.
"I think Mr Parling should be flattered he is bracketed with a genuine heart throb super star, while Mr Castrogiovanni was not far behind.
"They both got more votes than Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp, so maybe it shows that the look of a rough, tough man in a beard is getting more popular."
Previous winners of My Hairy Valentine have included cricketer Freddie Flintoff, singer Tom Jones and TV presenter Jonathan Ross.
Mr Flett said: "We, as an organisation, say that whether a beard is sexy or not is in the eye of the beholder."
A Tigers spokesman said: "After landing rugby venue of the year and Marketing Initiative of the Year, this is one of the more unusual awards to make its way to Welford Road in recent months.
"We're sure Geoff's teammates will have fun at his expense when he returns to the club after the Six Nations – in fact, it could get quite hairy!"