Former England rugby player Rob Burrow diagnosed with motor neurone disease

19 December 2019, 15:46

Rob Burrow has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease
Rob Burrow has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Former England Rugby League and Leeds Rhinos star Rob Burrow announced he has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

The 37-year-old Leeds Rhinos legend confirmed the "devastating news" on Thursday.

Burrow retired from the sport following his eighth Super League Grand Final win at the conclusion of the 2017 season.

The father of three represented the Yorkshire-based club for his entire career, making a total of 492 appearances and scoring more than 1,000 points.

He was also capped 15 times for England, including several World Cup games, and a further five times for Great Britain.

The rugby hero thanked people for offering him words of support since receiving the diagnosis.

"I know I have a big challenge in front of me but knowing that I have the love and support of so many people will give me inspiration and strength," he said.

"I am very positive about the situation and intend to battle the condition as I still feel fit and well.

"I would like to ask for privacy at this time so I can adjust to the battle I have ahead and spend time with those closest to me ahead of Christmas and New Year."

After retiring from rugby league, Burrow took up coaching and oversaw the development of Leeds' young academy players for two years.

He currently acts as the head coach of the Rhinos' reserve team.

Along with his eight Super League medals, his trophy cabinet also includes winning the Challenge Cup in 2014 and 2015, three World Club Challenges and three League Leaders Shields.

Rob Burrow kicking for Great Britain in 2007
Rob Burrow kicking for Great Britain in 2007. Picture: PA

Leeds' director of rugby and former team mate of Burrow, Kevin Sinfield, said the news was "devastating" and "heart breaking for Rob and his young family."

"Throughout his career, Rob overcame the odds to become a legend of the game and I know he will tackle this challenge with the exact same positive determination," he added.

"As a club, Rob will receive our full support and we will be working with him to chart the way forward."

Former Scotland rugby union international Doddie Weir was diagnosed with the debilitating disease in 2017 and on Sunday won the Helen Rollason Award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year show.

The same disease claimed the life of former Rangers defender Fernando Ricksen in September and South African Rugby Union World Cup winner Joost van der Westhuizen in 2017.