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.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
News
people
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
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

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star