Jonathan Davies in heartfelt homage to 'lovely' Rob Burrow

Rob Burrow
-Credit: (Image: Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

Welsh rugby legend Jonathan Davies has paid tribute to "lovely man" Rob Burrow following the 41-year-old's death. Retired rugby league star Burrow died after a four-year battle with motor neurone disease, his former club Leeds Rhinos announced on Sunday.

Davies posted on social media: "So sad to hear the news of Rob passing away. A lovely man and a great player He left us with some great memories. Thoughts are with his family and friends."

The Prince of Wales described Burrow as a “legend of rugby league” with a “huge heart”. In a personally signed message on X, William said: “He taught us, ‘in a world full of adversity, we must dare to dream.’ Catherine and I send our love to Lindsey, Jackson, Maya and Macy.”

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Dan Walker praised the retired hooker and scrum-half for inspiring millions in his fight against his illness. “He was the little fella who made a massive impact on the pitch and an even bigger one off it," said Walker. “Rob Burrow taught us so much in the way he dealt with his MND diagnosis and inspired millions with his continued determination and desire to make a difference for others. Sending all my love to Lindsey and their kids, his sisters, his mum and dad and all those who will miss him so much.”

In a statement the Motor Neurone Disease Association said: "It is with great sadness that the MND Association has learnt of the death of our patron Rob Burrow CBE, four and half years after his diagnosis of motor neurone disease. Our thoughts today are with Rob’s wife Lindsey, children Macy, Maya and Jackson, family and friends and the rugby community.

"Rob, who played at number 7 for Leeds Rhinos, lived with this brutal disease in the public eye after choosing to announce his diagnosis shortly before Christmas 2019. He used every opportunity to raise awareness of the disease, speaking publicly, undertaking media interviews and opening his life up in two moving BBC documentaries My Year With MND and Rob Burrow: Living With MND.

"He remained a consistent and passionate advocate for people with MND – he became the first person to use a communications aid to read a bedtime story on CBeebies. And he joined the United To End MND coalition which successfully campaigned for a £50million Government investment in targeted MND research.

"In doing so much, he inspired support from so many. On the weekend of the Challenge Cup Final in October 2020, fans and supporters donated an incredible £70,000 to the MND Association. Just two months later, Rob’s former captain Kevin Sinfield CBE took on the first of four incredible challenges raising more than £7million for MND charities, including the MND Association. Rob and Kev’s friendship made headline news around the world.

"Thousands of well-wishers, not just in rugby’s heartland, but across the country donated, took on fundraising challenges and pledged support in tribute to Rob’s bravery.

Kevin Sinfield holds his BBC Special Award alongside Rob Burrow during the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards 2022
Kevin Sinfield holds his BBC Special Award alongside Rob Burrow during the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards 2022 -Credit:PA Wire

"Rob’s contribution to rugby league and awareness of MND were recognised in the 2021 New Year’s Honours List when he was made an MBE and that same year Rob accepted the role of patron of the MND Association. Rob was subsequently awarded a CBE in the 2024 New Year’s Honours list. It is testament to the strength of feeling people have for Rob that the support in his name has never wavered."

Leeds Rhinos said Burrow "inspired the entire country" with his brave battle against his condition. The club's statement went on: "He passed away peacefully at Pinderfield's Hospital near his home surrounded by his loving family after becoming ill earlier this week.

"Burrow played his entire career with Leeds Rhinos and won every honour with the club as part of their golden generation. A hard working and dedicated player, his fearless performances made him one of the most respected players in the Rhinos ranks.

"Rob rose through the club's academy ranks to make his debut in 2001. In 2004, he was part of the Leeds team that ended a 32-year wait to win the Championship with victory in the Grand Final. It was the first of eight Grand Final wins for Burrow including winning the man of the match award in the 2007 and 2011 Old Trafford showpieces. The 2011 game included his breath-taking try that is still regarded as the greatest Grand Final try ever scored.

"In total he made 492 appearances for the club, placing him in fifth in the club's all-time list of career appearances. He scored 196 tries for a total of 1,103 points. He was capped 15 times by England and played five more tests for Great Britain including a Man of the Series performance in 2007 for the national side. He won the Challenge Cup at Wembley in 2014 and 2015 as well as three World Club Challenges and three League Leaders Shields."