Kevin Sinfield to fly across the world in final gesture of love and respect for Rob Burrow

-Credit: (Image: PA Wire)
-Credit: (Image: PA Wire)

Kevin Sinfield will be absent from England's first Test against New Zealand in Dunedin next Saturday to attend the funeral of his close friend and beloved former team-mate, Rob Burrow.

Sinfield, 43, is currently with the England squad in Auckland in his capacity as skills coach, preparing them for two Tests against the All Blacks on July 6 and 13. However, he will not accompany the team to Dunedin next Thursday, choosing instead to fly home to pay his respects to Burrow, the former rugby league star who tragically passed away from motor neurone disease (MND) on June 2 at the age of 41.

Burrow's funeral is set to take place at Pontefract Crematorium on Sunday, July 7 and Sinfield has been granted time off by England head coach Steve Borthwick to attend the private service, which will be attended by around 100 family members and friends.

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Sinfield will return to New Zealand two days later, just in time for the second Test in Auckland.

"I couldn't have asked for more support," said Sinfield, a former team-mate of Burrow's for Leeds Rhinos, England, and Great Britain.

"Rob would want me to be here and be part of this [Test series]. He would want me to try and be supporting the guys. The [England] lads have been fantastic throughout my time working with them. They've shown compassion and care for me that won't go unnoticed.

"Steve and the management team have been wonderful, too. They're very understanding that when you lose somebody - especially someone that close - it's tough."

Sinfield, who has raised over £8million for MND charities since Burrow's diagnosis four years ago, had the chance to visit Burrow just three days before he passed away. Sinfield said: "We had broken from camp on the Thursday and I knew he was poorly, but I walked in to see him and I got a big smile off him which was brilliant."

Following Burrow's passing, Sinfield joined the England squad at Pennyhill Park, Surrey, the next day, before jetting off to Tokyo with the team ahead of their match against Japan last Saturday.

"At that point you want to be with family and friends," Sinfield added. "On Monday morning before I travelled down to Pennyhill Park I was at the site where the Rob Burrow MND Centre is going to be.

"In many ways there are a lot of things I have missed over the last few weeks. However I love being here too. It's been really good to get away and get some time to reflect.

"I'm busy, I'm working with guys who want to improve every day, I've got some really strong friendships within the management and coaching staff and with players."

Sinfield announced in January that he would leave the England staff at the end of the summer tour, however it has been reported recently that he has held talks with the RFU over a new role moving forward.

Asked about whether he was going to stay on, Sinfield replied: "I've given it a lot of thought, but I can't share it with you today. We'll see. What I will say is that in the last couple of weeks, with what has happened with Rob, it has given me plenty to think about again.

"He was a big inspiration for me to come across to rugby union to start with and he's continued to be an inspiration with the career choices I've made so far. I've loved my time with England rugby, working with the lads, and as to what comes next, we'll see."