Princess of Wales celebrates as England secure Rugby League World Cup victory

The Princess of Wales enjoyed a “really exciting” game as she joined fans to watch England win their Rugby League World Cup quarter-final.

Kate attended the crunch game against Papua New Guinea at Wigan’s DW Stadium on Saturday, her first match since succeeding the Duke of Sussex as patron of the Rugby Football League (RFL).

Wearing a red coat over a long-sleeved burgundy top and pleated skirt, the princess was cheered by the crowd of 23,179 supporters as she walked on to the pitch to shake hands with players from both teams before the match kicked off.

Kate, with an umbrella to cover her from the rain, clapped during a moment of “non-silence” held to mark the tournament’s Movember Mental Fitness Match Day – with the aim of combating the damaging impact that silence can have upon men’s mental wellbeing.

She took a seat in the director’s box to watch the game and was seen smiling and clapping as England got off to a successful start with an early try, going on to win the game 46-6.

Princess of Wales attends Rugby League World Cup quarter-final match
The Princess of Wales meeting the England Women’s Rugby League team (Martin Rickett/PA)

Meeting the women’s team at half-time, Kate said: “I’ve loved watching the game. It’s really exciting, it’s so fast paced.

“It’s been really exciting, the atmosphere as well.”

She congratulated the women’s team, who beat Canada at the stadium earlier in the day in their group stage game, and told them she would be watching their progress.

England captain Emily Rudge told Kate she had been playing the sport for 20 years, since she was 10.

She said: “The game has grown so much for us as women.”

The princess said: “It’s amazing to see the women’s game being played at the same time, alongside the men’s game.”

She told player Jodie Cunningam: “I’m so in awe of all of you, you’re running day jobs as well as training, as well as family life and things like that, it’s extraordinary. You juggle everything.”

Cunningham said: “There are some incredible women on this team.”

Kate also said the inclusivity of the sport was “really impressive”, and added: “That’s why I’m so proud to be patron.”

When she arrived at the stadium earlier in the day, the princess said: “There are a lot of very excited fans out there.”

Princess of Wales attends Rugby League World Cup quarter-final match
The Princess of Wales meeting England’s Sam Tomkins ahead of the game (Martin Rickett/PA)

She met officials including TV presenter Clare Balding, the president of the Rugby Football League, who told her she was going to as many of the tournament’s games as she could.

Kate also congratulated the England Physical Disability Rugby League (PDRL) team on winning the first PDRL World Cup after beating New Zealand in the final last Sunday.

The princess asked members of the team about how they had prepared for the games and told them: “Really well done.”

She also spoke to representatives from groups who have played a part in the delivery of the Rugby League World Cup Social Impact Programme.

The programme, launched in June 2018, aims to provide a positive impact to communities in the tournament’s host towns and cities.

Volunteers presented the princess with gifts including soap, a signed shirt, artwork and some knitted hats.

Kate told volunteer Susan Hill, who knitted the hats: “I tried knitting once and I was terrible at it, so I’ll have to come for lessons.”

Ms Hill replied: “It’s easy when you know how.”

Ms Hill also told the princess she was profoundly deaf but had been able to lip read what she said, adding: “Thank you.”

The draw for the World Cup was launched by Harry in January 2020, just over a week after he announced he wanted to step down with wife Meghan as a working royal for personal and financial freedom.

There was an expectation he would attend the tournament hosted by England, but it was postponed for a year after Australia and New Zealand refused to take part, citing safety fears on the back of the pandemic.