Man of feel Burrow walks tall with a touch of class

The diminutive Leeds scrum-half with sideline in massage will again take a big hand in the Grand Final By Dave Hadfield

from Jonty Parkin to Alex Murphy to Andrew Johns, there have been plenty of rugby league scrum-halves who would be happy to be accused of rubbing up people the wrong way.

Not so Leeds' Rob Burrow. The diminutive Rhino, who plays against St Helens in the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford this evening, is a professionally qualified masseur, adept at soothing away aches and pains like the ones that are part and parcel of his own playing career.

Burrow and his wife, Lindsey, a qualified physiotherapist, have opened a business near their home in Pontefract that will become Rob's main focus when he retires from playing. At 26 last week, that day is still some way off, but he is a player who believes in looking ahead. "It's something I can do when I finish playing; in the meantime, I give it as much time as I can," he says.

Burrow first became a devotee of massage under the influence of the then Leeds and now England coach Tony Smith, a big believer in its benefits.

He now offers a choice of sports massage, advanced massage and Swedish massage – which sounds suspect but isn't. "And I can't recommend it highly enough," says Burrow. He would say that, perhaps, but he is a pretty good advert himself for its curative powers.

Ever since he first picked up a rugby ball, he has been told that he was too small at 5ft 5in to survive amid the collision of large bodies that is modern rugby league, despite the encouraging precedents from the game's history.

He has proved his durability, however, missing fewer games through injury than many players a foot taller and becoming the first choice for Smith's Test team.

Opponents might fancy their chances of knocking him off his game and female fans might want to mother him, but Burrow is a player who can look after himself, on and off the field.

He was man of the match as Leeds thrashed Saints 33-6 last year, not scoring a try himself, but having a hand in several of the Rhinos' five. "We saved our best performance of the season for the last game and we'll probably have to do the same again," he says. "Saints are a fantastic team. They have generals from 1 to 17, so it will take something special."

The something special at the heart of what could be a classic match will be the contest between Burrow and Sean Long at scrum-half, the Test incumbent versus his predecessor.

Burrow is not massaging his rival's ego when he describes him as the No 7 alongside whom others are still measured.

"Sean Long has been a fantastic player. He's done it for year after year in big games and that's a tribute to his quality. When you're up against a player like him, you've got to watch him all the time."

Long, now an accomplished strategist as well as an individual threat for his club, retired from international rugby in messy and controversial circumstances almost two years ago, leaving the stage clear for Burrow to form an effective Test partnership with Saints' Leon Pryce.

The two players, such a contrast in build, style, temperament and everything else, complement each other in the marriage-of-opposites sense of the term and Burrow is looking forward to them teaming up again in Australia later this month. "In the back of your mind, you know that there's a World Cup coming up, but we've got a season to finish first."

But there's the rub: which Leeds will it be that turns up for the Grand Final? The one that hardly put a foot wrong in the equivalent match last year, or the one that was swept aside at Knowsley Road two weeks ago?

Naturally, Burrow believes it will be the former. "We never got going at Saints, but the lads will be much fresher for this," he promises.

Part of the process of constant refreshment involves stalwarts leaving the club. Even though most of the pre-match publicity has concentrated on the impending departure of Saints' coach, Daniel Anderson, Burrow will be losing at least two team-mates after this game, with Nick Scruton moving to Bradford and Gareth Ellis to Wests Tigers in Australia.

The loss of Ellis will be particularly hard to compensate for, he says. "The only person who could replace Gareth would be Gareth. But he will represent British rugby league with pride and we want him to go out on a high."

Rob Burrow can do more that his share to ensure that. And then, whatever the result, he can also ease away the inevitable bumps and strains.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home