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Strictly's Ben Cohen: I Haven't Dropped Kristina - Yet!

14/08/2014 16:55 | Updated 22 May 2015

You'd have thought playing for his country in front of millions would have set Ben Cohen up nicely for starring on the BBC's flagship winter show.

Trouble is, he's a 6 ft 2 ex-rugby player, who is now learning to be light on his feet and move freely in lycra. And the show is Strictly Come Dancing.

No mean feat.

"I have found it really, really tough," Ben tells us, between rehearsals with his partner, Kristina Rihanoff.

"It's a new skill for me - I've never danced for a moment in my life! It's intense but I have really embraced the experience - I'm doing about nine hours a day in rehearsals.

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It's very scary going out there each week - it doesn't compare to the feeling of going out on the pitch. Hands down this is a thousand times more terrifying. Luckily I haven't ever dropped Kristina - she's a bigger target to keep hold of than a rugby ball!

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It might be a pretty terrifying experience – and bloody hard work – but the nine hours a day are paying off, as Ben, dad to twins Harriette and Isabelle, six, has 'turned a corner recently,' according to the man himself.

Does he see himself as a contender for the Strictly crown this year?

"I have no idea who will win it," he says coyly. "There are some incredible dancers and fantastic routines each week. For me, I just wanted to get through the first week - every other week is a bonus."

Ben Cohen: The screams from the girls on Strictly are pretty unusual - it's normally the guys!

Are the screams of support from the audience (Brucie only has to utter the word 'Ben' and the excitable noise is deafening) another 'bonus'?

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The attention is pretty novel because it's from women - normally I'm a bit of a gay icon so it's certainly an experience!

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"I'm deaf in one ear so I can't quite hear the full effect, but what I do hear is pretty funny! I'm a family man. I let it all wash over me.

"I haven't had pants thrown at me - yet. That would be pretty fun on Strictly, but I'm not sure they would allow it! You never know, it might all get too much for the judges!"

Pants and lycra aside, Ben signed up for the show to raise awareness of his anti-bullying foundation, StandUp, something he is clearly passionate about.

His foundation prides itself on raising awareness of the 'long-term, damaging effects of bullying, and funding those doing real-world work to stop it', one such charity being BeatBullying – Parentdish's partner for our #notobullying campaign.

"For me the show was all about raising the profile of the Foundation and the work we do to help other charities and institutions. That was number one," he says.

"I haven't – luckily – ever been bullied myself, but my dad was killed in 2000 trying to help someone who was being attacked. That stayed with me."

Ben set up the Foundation in his dad's honour, and is proud and passionate about the work that he and his team do. With Anti-Bullying Week coming up in November, it's another fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of bullying in schools, online and in sports.

"Anti-Bullying Week is the perfect opportunity for people to talk about bullying and charities and organisations to get support and collaborate, which is exactly what we're about."

And with that he is back to it, getting ready to hit the dance floor for another showstopper.

Watch out for those pants, Ben...

The Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation aims to raise awareness of the long-term, damaging effects of bullying and to raise funds to support those, including BeatBullying, doing real world work to stop it.

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