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‘Beacon of hope’ – Sinfield’s tribute to friend Burrow

Kevin Sinfield and Rob Burrow embrace

Sinfield and Burrow both played more than 400 times for Leeds Rhinos (PA Media)

Kevin Sinfield paid tribute to Rob Burrow, describing his former Leeds Rhinos teammate, who has died aged 41, as a “beacon of hope and inspiration”.

Rugby legend Burrow passed away on Sunday after a four-and-a-half year battle with motor neurone disease (MND).

As friends and former Leeds teammates, Sinfield and Burrow have together raised millions for charity to raise awareness and fund research into ALS.

“Today was the day I hoped would never come,” Sinfield said. “The world has lost a great man and a great friend to so many.”

Burrow and Sinfield both became CBEs in the 2024 New Year Honors. The pair have helped raise more than £15 million for MND charities since Burrow’s diagnosis in 2019.

“You fought so bravely to the end and have become a beacon of hope and inspiration, not only for the MND community, but for all who have seen and heard your story,” Sinfield said.

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He said Burrow would “continue to inspire me every day.”

Sinfield added: “I would always say that pound for pound you were the strongest player I have ever played with, but since your diagnosis you have been the toughest and bravest man I have ever met.”

He signed his tribute by saying: “I will miss you my little buddy, all my love, Kev x.”

Sinfield has raised millions for MND research alone by taking on a series of endurance challenges.

Last year he completed seven ultramarathons over seven days in seven cities including Dublin, Edinburgh and Birmingham, raising more than £825,000.

The close-knit pair also launched the Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon, which took place for the second time last month.

Earlier this year, Burrow and Sinfield contributed to a picture book telling the story of a friendship between two young boys named Rob and Kev.

In 2022, Burrow received the Helen Rollason Award at the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year ceremony, with Sinfield also recognized with a special award.

Kevin Sinfield and Rob Burrow with Prince WilliamKevin Sinfield and Rob Burrow with Prince William

The Prince of Wales (right) met Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield during a visit to Headingley Stadium in January to award them with CBEs (PA Media)

Fans gathered outside Headingley Stadium, home of Leeds Rhinos, on Sunday to pay tribute to Burrow.

Current Leeds second-row striker Cameron Smith, who played alongside Burrow before retiring in 2017, was among the supporters who paid his respects to his former teammate.

“It’s a very emotional evening. I think it’s amazing given the number of people who have come to pay their respects,” the 25-year-old told Sky Sports.

“I was fortunate enough to play a few games with him. He was my youth coach and he taught me a lot about the game and how to be a good teammate and a good guy.”

“He was a really great player and he left a huge legacy here.”

Burrow’s former Leeds teammate Jamie Peacock wrote on Instagram: “Rob in a sport where courage, grit and perseverance characterize every player at the very top, you were the bravest, the bravest and the boldest of them all.

“Becoming an inspiration to thousands of people and a North Star to the MND community, offering hope where there was none before. No more complaining about your condition and situation. An inspiration to us all. RIP mate.”

Ex-Scottish rugby union international Doddie Weir campaigned alongside Burrow to raise awareness and funds for MND until his death in November 2022 at the age of 52, and his charity – My Name’5 Doddie Foundation – described Burrow as “a real source of inspiration”.

The Darby Rimmer MND Foundation, founded by former Bradford City footballer Stephen Darby and his close friend Chris Rimmer, as well as former England football captain Steph Houghton, who is married to Darby, also paid tribute on social media.

“Devastated doesn’t even come close! Words can’t describe our love for Rob,” Houghton wrote on X.

In March, Burrow attended the start of ‘March of the Day’, a 175-mile march by former footballers in support of MND, led by ex-Ipswich striker Marcus Stewart and Darby, both of whom have the disease.

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