World Cup has given Rob Burrow the rugby union bug – Kevin Sinfield

The former Leeds Rhinos rugby league team-mates have raised over £8million for motor neurone disease charities since Burrow’s diagnosis in 2019.

Duncan Bech
Saturday 14 October 2023 14:09 BST
Kevin Sinfield, left, has helped close friend Rob Burrow become a rugby union convert (Danny Lawson/PA)
Kevin Sinfield, left, has helped close friend Rob Burrow become a rugby union convert (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)

Rob Burrow has become a rugby union fan after watching his friend Kevin Sinfield help steer England into the World Cup quarter-finals.

Burrow and Sinfield were team-mates at league outfit Leeds Rhinos for 14 years until fate placed them on a different path when Burrow was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2019.

Sinfield has since raised over £8million for MND charities by completing a series of remarkable endurance events, including running seven ultra-marathons in seven days.

The duo were celebrated at the Pride of Britain Awards on Sunday, winning the special recognition award, although Sinfield was unable to attend the ceremony because of his World Cup commitments.

England face Fiji in Marseille on Sunday and Sinfield has been preparing the defence – with inspiration from his closest friend.

“For me it’s important to understand why you’re here and then try and channel that and use it in the right way,” Sinfield said.

“Everybody’s different. For me it’s for family, it’s my family the most. But also there’s my good mate Rob, who’s probably partly why I’m here.

“He’s been watching the games at home and he’s becoming a bit of a fan, so he’ll be tuning into the quarter-final.”

When asked if Burrow is now a union convert, Sinfield said: “Yeah he is, yeah.

“I haven’t spoken to him that much – he’s been to that many different award dinners the last couple of weeks, it’s hard trying to keep track!

“He was on holiday the weekend before, so we just chat about general stuff, but he’s been following the games. He’s been really enjoying it. He would have made a great scrum-half, by the way.”

Hanging over the last-eight appointment at Stade Velodrome is England’s defeat by Fiji at Twickenham in August, their first ever loss in the fixture, which placed World Cup preparations at their lowest ebb.

Since then they have accumulated four successive wins that saw them finish top of Pool D and they enter the shootout for a semi-final against France or South Africa as strong favourites.

Sinfield insists there is no hangover from the 30-22 loss to the Islanders.

“It was an important game for us. It came when we were on the eve of travelling to France,” he said.

“Selection had already taken place but if you understand humans and how they operate, you might want them to go after something but when they’re that close to a World Cup, you’d probably understand why the performance was what it was.

“It wasn’t good enough, but I would also like to say that after we reviewed that game, we saw a change. Then, ever since we arrived in France, we’ve been excellent.

“Whether we have demons on Sunday, whether some guys are anxious about the game, that would be the case whoever we were facing.

“In a game of this magnitude, that’s important for us. There are always going to be nerves – if you’re going to term them as demons, that would be the same whatever opposition we faced.

“Fiji are a threat and we look forward to playing the best we can.”

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