Prince Harry speaks of rugby star Rob Burrow's story as he hosts World Cup draw

Prince Harry brushed off the media storm surrounding his future with the Royal family to praise rugby star Rob Burrow.

Thursday, 16th January 2020, 5:06 pm
Updated Friday, 17th January 2020, 11:55 am

Harry was at Buckingham Palace - the official residence of his grandmother the Queen, who has now sanctioned his decision - where he was hosting the Rugby League World Cup 2021 draw.

Comedian and presenter Adam Hills was part of a group of executives and players from the 21 competing nations at the event, and he praised Harry for being up to date, despite his turbulent few weeks, with the story of rugby league great Rob Burrow, diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

Sydney-born Hills, who was representing Australia, said Harry had chatted about Burrow's recent testimonial match: "That for me shows the kind of duty and commitment to rugby league that he has."

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Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, the Patron of the Rugby Football League hosts the Rugby League World Cup 2021 draws for the men's, women's and wheelchair tournaments at Buckingham Palace.

The host of the Channel 4 satirical show The Last Leg added: "That in amongst everything else that's going on in his life, that he is aware of the rugby league story of the year."

During the event earlier today, Harry was also introduced to two ambassadors for the global tournament - England and Leeds Rhino wheelchair rugby league star James Simpson, and Jodie Cunningham, who plays in the Women's Super League for St Helens.

Mr Simpson made Harry laugh when he said: "We started without you."

The global tournament being staged by the UK is the pinnacle event for rugby league and will take place during October and November in 17 cities across England.

The Duke of Sussex talks with Leeds Rhino player, James Simpson, in the Buckingham Palace gardens, London, as he hosts the Rugby League World Cup 2021 draws

The duke was announced as patron of the Rugby Football League in December 2016, but it is not yet known what will happen to this patronage and his 13 others as he carves out his new life.

The duke pulled the first ball, which decided the opening game for England's men's team and the country picked was Samoa.

Meanwhile it has also been announced that the University of Leeds is to host one of the training hubs for the Rugby League World Cup 2021.

The England women’s team will be one of the squads to be based at the University during the competition. Other teams will also be using the training facilities but they have not yet been identified.

Players will have access to first-class training facilities, including a floodlit World 22 specification 3G rubber crumb pitch and high-quality grass pitches, strength and conditioning facilities, an eight-lane 25m swimming pool and accommodation.

Three of the men’s and four of the women’s matches will be played at the Emerald Headingley Stadium, home of Leeds Rhinos, and one of the men’s semi-finals will take place at Elland Road. The event will be held in the autumn of 2021, with the finals weekend at the end of November.

Suzanne Glavin, Head of Sport and Physical Activity, said: “The University is proud to be associated with the tournament. It will showcase the very best of world Rugby League and the decision that we will host one of the training hubs is a fitting endorsement of the world-class facilities we have at the University."

The University has recently spent £115,000 on a major refurbishment of the swimming pool at The Edge sports centre, on the main campus, and £250,000 on resurfacing and renewing the shock pad on one of the Astroturf pitches in addition to improving dugouts and scoreboards.