Several of the Strictly Come Dancing pros have leapt to the defence of Bruce Forsyth, hitting out at calls for the 80-year-old to retire.

Forsyth – currently fronting the sixth series of the show along with co-presenter Tess Daly – has come under fire recently for some of his behaviour on the show, with viewers suggesting it might be time for him to hang up his dancing shoes for good.

One incident saw him accidentally calling contestant Jessie Wallace ‘Jelly’, while viewers failed to see the funny side of a joke he cracked upon learning that Cherie Lunghi had played Nancy in a production of Oliver Twist.

“That’s the last thing we need on this show, another Nancy,” Forsyth told her – leading viewers to point out on the official Strictly website that such a remark would be offensive to gay judges Craig Revel Horwood and Bruno Tonioli.

However, the dancers on the show have now hit back. “Bruce is irreplaceable,” said Anton du Beke, while Darren Bennett added that the veteran comic was “the lynchpin” for the show.

And the girls have been quick to defend him too. “He’s Mr Entertainment,” said Erin Boag, “Who else out there is of the same ilk?” Lilia Kopylova pointed out, “He’s such a big part of the show. We all love Brucie.”

This weekend’s show sees the ladies return to the dancefloor, performing either a rumba or a quickstep.

Model Jodie Kidd – who survived the dance-off two weeks ago when Gillian Taylforth left – is favourite to be eliminated this week, with odds of 6-4 according to bookies Paddy Power. Jessie Wallace is second favourite to go, followed by Lisa Snowdon.