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Challenge Cup final: Leeds Rhinos legend Rob Burrow given guest honour

Challenge Cup final: Leeds Rhinos legend Rob Burrow given guest honour
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Former scrum-half is battling illness.

Rob Burrow will be the chief guest for Saturday's Coral Challenge Cup Final 'in absentia'.

The former Leeds and Great Britain scrum-half, who was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) last December, turned down an invitation to attend the match between the Rhinos and Salford which will be played behind closed doors due to coronavirus restrictions.

Now the Rugby Football League has announced the 38-year-old has agreed to follow in some famous footsteps by acting as chief guest for the rescheduled final from the comfort of his own home.

HM The Queen performed the role in 1960, 1967 and 1980 and last year the chief guest was her grandson, the Duke of Sussex.

RFL chair Simon Johnson said: "Had the Coral Challenge Cup Final taken place in July as planned, Rob would have joined us as the guest of honour.

"Circumstances have changed but Rob remains the 2020 Coral Challenge Cup chief guest – central to the day and in all our hearts as he and the rest of the rugby league community this year watch the final from home.

"Rob Burrow represents the best of the sport. An inspirational player, a dedicated father, husband and son, and now an inspiration as a campaigner, Rob is beloved by everyone in rugby league and by many, many friends of our sport.

"For this highly unusual Challenge Cup Final – with no supporters in the ground, and no traditional presentation of the trophy – we are delighted that he accepted our invitation to be Chief Guest in absentia.

"Rob has chosen to use this platform to say 'thank you' again to the rugby league community for its support to him and his family and to further raise awareness of MND on behalf of those living with the disease who do not have a public profile."

In an ideal world, Leeds wanted Burrow to lead the team out at Wembley and they have made no secret of their desire to win the trophy for their former player, who helped the Rhinos to victory in the 2014 and 2015 finals.

"He's very close to a lot of people in our organisation," said coach Richard Agar, who dedicated his team's semi-final win over Wigan to Burrow and broken-leg victim Harry Newman.

"He's coached a number of our younger players coming up through the academy and been a team-mate for a number of them.

"He's a special person within our group and there is a strong desire and motivation to add a bit of significance to it."

Rhinos captain Luke Gale, who now wears Burrow's old number seven jersey, said: "He's been in our thoughts all season, going back to playing the game for him in January.

"The documentary that came out this week was so emotional, it shows how much of an inspiration he has been for the rugby league community, ourselves and his family and what a character he is.

"He played with number seven on his jersey as well and every time he took to the field he gave it 100 per cent. That's why I want to do it in honour of him."

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Lee Mossop pictured in October 2019
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