Rugby Star Rob Burrow Dead at 41: Prince William and More Pay Tribute

Rugby Star Rob Burrow Dead at 41: Prince William and More Pay Tribute

The sports world has lost a legend.

Former rugby player Rob Burrow has died at age 41, his team confirmed.

“Rob inspired the entire country with his brave battle against Motor Neurone Disease (MND) since his diagnosis in December 2019,” the Leeds Rhinos said in a statement shared to their website June 2. “He passed away peacefully at Pinderfields Hospital near his home surrounded by his loving family after becoming ill earlier this week.” 

After the passing of Burrow—who welcomed children Jackson, Maya and Macy with wife Lindsey—many expressed their condolences, including Prince William and Kate Middleton.

“A legend of Rugby League, Rob Burrow had a huge heart,” the Prince of Wales—who awarded Burrow a CBE in January—wrote on Instagram June 2. “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.”

Many former teammates also shared heartfelt messages.

“You will continue to inspire me every single day,” Kevin Sinfield said in part of a statement. “I have lost a dear friend and I will never forget the special times we shared both on and off the pitch.”

“I would always say that you were pound for pound the toughest player I ever played alongside, however since your diagnosis, you were the toughest and bravest man I have ever met,” the coach and former Leeds player continued. “The last 4 and a half years you showed the world what living and loving looked like and this was always done with the biggest smile on your face. I will miss you my little mate.”

Former Rhinos player Danny Buderus also shared throwback footage from a match on X and wrote, “You made this your field of dreams that night mate. Forever inspiring.”

Jan Kruger/Getty Images

In addition, many players and fans paid tribute to Burrow at the team’s stadium in Leeds.

“He was a spirit that enabled us to go out and fight for each other,” Jamie Jones-Buchanan told Good Morning Britain at the memorial. “And again, that courage that came through physical expression on the field never stopped shining.”

“In fact, it shone exponentially in that second chapter of his life where the physical element of Rob Burrow was completely robbed from him through no fault of his own,” the former Rhinos player added. “But it didn’t stop him from shouting any louder, and he did. And I think every moment when we wake up, we’ve got to take inspiration from that.”

Burrow, who made his Rhinos debut in 2001, went on to have a storybook career in the sport.

“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,” the organization’s tribute stated. “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 breathtaking try that is still regarded as the greatest Grand Final try ever scored.”

Ed Sykes/Getty Images

After playing in nearly 500 matches—including the 2014 and 2015 Challenge Cups as well as three World Cup Challenges—Burrow retired in 2017. Two years later, he was diagnosed with MND. Burrow raised awareness and funds for the MND community and he shared his journey in the documentaries My Year With MND and Living With MND as well as in his book Too Many Reasons to Live.

“Along with his friend and former teammate Kevin Sinfield, Burrow has inspired nearly £20 million in fundraising across the UK and Ireland,” the Rhinos added. “This has included raising over £6 million to build the Rob Burrow Centre for MND in Leeds as a lasting legacy for those who follow him in their own personal battles with the disease.”

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