EXCLUSIVE 'Una encourages me, we have a good relationship': Ben Foden says his pop star ex is supporting his X Factor journey... but new wife Jackie 'prefers bandmate Thom Evans to him'

Ben Foden has revealed his pop star ex-wife, Una Healy, knew about his desire to branch out into music long before his days on X Factor: Celebrity.

Speaking exclusively to MailOnline at SportsMail's event, A Pint with Piers, at the Hollywood Arms in Chelsea on Wednesday, the rugby player, 34, said The Saturdays star, 38, has been supporting his journey on the ITV1 talent show.

Ben and Una split in 2018 after six years of marriage, and continue to raise their two children, daughter Aoife, seven, and son, Tadhg, four.   

Trying times: The former couple split in 2018 after six years of marriage but continue to raise their two children together

Ex factor: Ben Foden has revealed his pop star ex-wife, Una Healy, knew about his desire to branch out into music long before his days on X Factor: Celebrity [pictured in 2017]

Ben told MailOnline: 'Una always used to encourage me to do the music thing. When I told her that I was doing [The X Factor] she thought it was a great idea. She loves it.' 

The hopeful musician admits the former couple have settled their differences and said he values her input when it comes to Try Star - the band he performs in with fellow rugby players Thom Evans, 34, and Levi Davis, 21.

Ben added: 'Una and I have a good relationship for the sake of the kids. I always wish her the very very best. And the kids are loving The X Factor. 

'They went to the show last week. They’re coming this weekend. They’re going to go absolutely bananas.

'Their mum is obviously mega talented at singing. She always says when she catches [the show]. Sometimes she’s busy, but she thinks [Try Star] are doing great.' 

Opening up: Ben (right) spoke exclusively to MailOnline at SportsMail's event, A Pint with Piers, at the Hollywood Arms in Chelsea on Wednesday

Opening up: Ben (right) spoke exclusively to MailOnline at SportsMail's event, A Pint with Piers, at the Hollywood Arms in Chelsea on Wednesday

The rugby player said: 'Una always used to encourage me to do the music thing. When I told her that I was doing [The X Factor] she thought it was a great idea. She loves it'

The rugby player said: 'Una always used to encourage me to do the music thing. When I told her that I was doing [The X Factor] she thought it was a great idea. She loves it'

Trying times: Ben and Una, 38, share children Aoife, seven, and Tadhg, four, and went through a high-profile split in 2018 after six years of marriage

Trying times: Ben and Una, 38, share children Aoife, seven, and Tadhg, four, and went through a high-profile split in 2018 after six years of marriage 

Ben shocked fans in August when he revealed he had married his second wife, Jackie Belanoff Smith, after a two-week whirlwind romance. 

He told how she has supported him through his X Factor journey and, despite living in the US, has been in the UK by his side.

But, somewhat surprisingly, his bandmate Thom is her 'favourite'.

Ben told MailOnline: 'Jackie has been here the whole time. She’s my number one fan. She’s had Try Star T-shirts made up. And she's told me that Thom’s her favourite in the band!

'She’s loving it. The problem is - it’s Thanksgiving next week [in America] so if we make the final she will have to disappear home, which will be a bummer.'

Of his public image, Ben added: 'She doesn’t know me as Ben the rugby player, or Ben in the public eye. In New York I was no-one. So she’s come into this crazy world.'

On stage: Ben is in Try Star with fellow rugby players Thom Evans [L] and Levi Davis [C]

On stage: Ben is in Try Star with fellow rugby players Thom Evans [L] and Levi Davis [C]

Groupie: Ben said his wife Jackie has supported him through his X Factor journey and, despite living in the US currently, has been in the UK by his side [pictured in August at their wedding]

Groupie: Ben said his wife Jackie has supported him through his X Factor journey and, despite living in the US currently, has been in the UK by his side [pictured in August at their wedding]

Of taking part in X Factor: Celebrity, the sportsman observed that the performance side of it is similar to playing rugby.

He said: 'It’s surreal. It’s also quite similar [to rugby]. We prepare all week. In rugby, you prep for an 80 minute [game] a week, but it’s still like being on a stage.

'When you’re [playing] at home you’re a hero. The opposition is the villain. It’s still like a stage show.

'Obviously, it's condensed into a two-minute appearance on X Factor. So if you make mistakes they’re a lot bigger, for everyone to see. But it’s still the same mentality. We go into the weekend to put on a show.'

Of the fact that they are competing for a record deal, Ben said: 'We keep giggling at the idea of a record deal. But we're in it to win it!'

In at the deep end: Of his public image, Ben added - 'She doesn’t know me as Ben the rugby player, or Ben in the public eye. In New York I was no-one. So she’s come into this crazy world'

In at the deep end: Of his public image, Ben added - 'She doesn’t know me as Ben the rugby player, or Ben in the public eye. In New York I was no-one. So she’s come into this crazy world'

Trying to juggle sports and music might not be too tricky for Ben, who admits he's 'at the end' of his pro rugby career.  

'Me and Levi are different. He’s in season now, and the English league season is 10 months long. Mine doesn’t start til February. Our season is only five months long. I can bounce back between games.

'I’m coaching and taking a more senior role, so I can take weekends off. My career is coming to an end, Levi’s is taking off. But he’s balancing the two. He’s a modern man. He could be a professional sportsman and a world-wide singer.'

And on the celebrity version of The X Factor having a future beyond this first season, Ben said: 'I've already told some of the girls in the England football team that they should do it!' 

Similarities: Of taking part in X Factor: Celebrity, the sportsman observed that the performance side of it is similar to playing rugby

Similarities: Of taking part in X Factor: Celebrity, the sportsman observed that the performance side of it is similar to playing rugby

Ben Foden EXCLUSIVE: X Factor star reveals ex Una Healy 'encouraged me to do the music thing'

The comments below have not been moderated.

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.