Strictly star Ugo Monye reveals he's split from his wife just days before new series starts

STRICTLY Come Dancing contender Ugo Monye has separated from his wife just days before the new series kicks off.

The split is a second devastating blow to the former England rugby union star following the death of his father from prostate cancer last week.

But brave Ugo, 38, refuses to pull out of the hit BBC1 dance show.

He insists taking part will provide the necessary “distraction” to help him come to terms with the loss.

Determined not to be tagged with the infamous “Strictly curse”, Ugo and Lucy, 32, his wife of five years, decided to go public with their split before Ugo filmed the pre-recorded launch show today.

Ugo said: “It’s been hard. At times things have seemed a bit overwhelming but it’s been a tough period for us both.

“In some relationships there is a moment, a ‘thing’, that breaks the couple.

“It can be an exterior influence. It can be anything. But with us, it was a number of things.

“We weren’t in a volatile relationship, we never hated each other and there was no third party.

“Forget the Strictly curse — it’s the Covid curse! We ended up where we ended up.

“It’s been a difficult, multi-faceted situation but there is no animosity. We’ve got two incredible young girls who we love so much.

“So our focus is very much on the kids, protecting and fostering this amazing family unit.

“It will take more work, of course, but Lucy and I are in a good place. We’ve even been discussing the idea of going on holiday as a family next summer. 

“Lucy is an amazing person and an incredible mum.”

 The couple, who were introduced through a mutual friend in 2014 and have two daughters — Phoenix, four, and Ruby, one — remain on good terms.

Ugo moved out of the family home in West London a few weeks ago but the pair still regular- ly tag one another into pictures on social media. With divorce rates up in the pandemic, Ugo believes the enforced time spent together through lockdowns hastened the demise of his own marriage.

But he adds: “Though we are separating, we are still very much still connected by our kids and we need to do what’s right for them.

I’m definitely not thinking about romance

“They came into his world because of a decision we made, so it’s really important we do everything to give them the best life possible.

“We’d had one big conversation a while ago when we put everything on the table, then smaller conversations about certain other things.

“So when the final decision to split was made, it wasn’t totally isolated or out of the blue.

“I haven’t told many friends because it means having that conversation — bringing it all up again, which is painful. We went to two kids’ birthday parties last weekend together and I don’t think anyone there could have guessed we had split.” 

Ugo, who won 14 caps for his country and played for the British and Irish Lions, will find out today who his Strictly dance partner is.

Over 18 previous series, the show — won last year by comedian Bill Bailey in front of 13million viewers — has led to several romantic relationships between celebs and their pro-dancer partners . . . while ending a number of marriages along the way.

But Ugo’s priorities are elsewhere and the 6ft 2in hunk is convinced his head will not be turned. “I’m definitely not thinking about romance,” he says, looking mildly horrified by the idea.

‘Paddy’s my TV husband, he’s brilliant’

“Through all the bad times of late, it’s so nice to have this ray of positivity and light — and the chance to wear some sequins!

“It’s the biggest show on telly, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“Strictly is a proper institution. And it’s almost taken on a greater meaning for me now.”

That is because his dad Theo was a fan of the show. And Ugo may be forced to miss some rehearsals to fly to Nigeria for the funeral.

But for now, he is fully focused on the show.

He says: “We haven’t started dancing yet but I am already loving it.

“We have a WhatsApp group (telly presenter and rival contestant) Dan Walker started and everyone is buzzing.

“My dance experience is limited to nightclubs, bars and weddings — and with a Jagerbomb inside me I’m fantastic! But I’ve never had to cha-cha-cha before.”

Ugo will dance in the group performance for next Saturday’s series opener before the live competition begins in earnest the following week.

He becomes the latest rugby star to swap rucks for the rumba.

League legend Martin Offiah appeared in the inaugural series, followed by union stars Matt Dawson, Thom Evans, Gavin Henson, Kenny Logan and Austin Healey.

Ugo, who maintains his ties with the game as a pundit, recently added to his increasingly glittering telly CV as one of the new team captains on A Question Of Sport.

He joins former Great Britain hockey player Sam Quek — who hosted the Beeb’s morning Olympic coverage with Dan Walker — in a revamped line-up, with comedian Paddy McGuinness taking over as quizmaster from Sue Barker after 24 years.

Ugo quips: “Paddy’s my new TV husband. That’s quite cool. He’s brilliant.”

With chemistry like that in his burgeoning telly bromance, no wonder Ugo has little time for the so-called Strictly curse.

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