Nadine Dorries slips up confusing rugby league and union in embarrassing speech

1 July 2022, 05:58 | Updated: 1 July 2022, 06:39

Nadine Dorries made the embarrassing blunder during a speech at a Rugby League World Cup event.
Nadine Dorries made the embarrassing blunder during a speech at a Rugby League World Cup event. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

The Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries stunned a rugby league audience by confusing the 13-man game with the rival code at a World Cup event.

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The Culture Secretary made the embarrassing blunder to the crowd in St Helens, wrongly recalling England's 2003 Rugby Union World Cup triumph as being rugby league.

Speaking at the launch of a report into the social impact made by the 2021 Rugby League World Cup at the Portico Vine community club, Ms Dorries referred to Jonny Wilkinson's match-winning drop goal.

"I've always quite liked the idea of rugby league," she said.

"My long-standing memory is that 2003 drop goal. I'll let you into a secret. I think we were drinking Bloody Mary's at the time.

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"It was 11 o'clock in the morning, but wow what a moment that was.

"I have heard and I know from my limited watching that it's an incredibly physical and sometimes brutal sport and it often ends up in a scrum, which actually reminds me very much of politics.

"I think we have a lot in common and given a lot of the media like to call me the prime minister's attack dog, I wonder sometimes if I should give rugby a go."

Her embarrassing blunder was uploaded to social media and she was criticised for "not taking her responsibility seriously", with one person saying: "It's basic stuff."

Ms Dorries attempted to make light of her mistake, saying on Twitter that she may have "switched codes like Jason Robinson".

However, her comments were condemned by Portico Vine vice-chairman Billy Vaughan, who said they were "floundered" by her reference to the drop-goal.

"Whoever writes these scripts should check their facts before the speeches are delivered," Mr Vaughan said.

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"And secondly, if you are the person who is delivering the speech then you need to do your research to check the information you have been given is correct.

"The difference between rugby league and rugby union is immense, we are the minnow by comparison.

"I applaud the government for the money they have invested in rugby league but to make that reference to the drop-goal, we were floundered."

John Dutton, World Cup chief executive, said he would be inviting the culture secretary back to attend matches so she can "see for herself what a wonderful sport rugby league is".

"We're delighted that she came," Mr Dutton said.

"We're delighted that the Government has shown such a massive commitment to investing into the tournament and its social impact programme.

"My final words to the Secretary of State were that we would be delighted if she were to come back to the tournament, maybe to attend each of the three disciplines and see for herself what a wonderful sport rugby league is."