Sean Long pays ultimate tribute to Rob Burrow and recalls Great Britain story

George Riley
Rob Burrow Sean Long Alamy

Sean Long (left) played alongside Rob Burrow (right) for Great Britain

Legendary Great Britain scrum half Sean Long has paid the ultimate tribute to the man who inherited his GB number 7 shirt, Rob Burrow. 

The Leeds Rhinos legend died this month from motor neurone disease, after an inspiring four-and-a-half year fight with the brutal illness in which he raised unprecedented awareness and millions of pounds.

Amongst the floods of tributes to an MND warrior come reminders of Burrow’s standing as a player, with those who played alongside and against the dazzling half-back keen to underline his status as one of the very best in British history. 

None more so that Long, widely acknowledged as one of the finest 7s of his generation, winning every domestic honour in a trophy-laden 17-year career, including a record three Lance Todd Trophies as man of the match in a Challenge Cup final.

Indeed Long knows better than most how devastating Burrow was on the field. The pair lined up opposite each other as the respective number 7s in three successive Grand Finals in 2007, 2008 and 2009, with Burrow and Leeds beating Long and St Helens on each occasion.

“What a player he was, he broke my heart so many times and in three Grand Finals, winning the Harry Sunderland Award too,” Long told Love Rugby League.

“You are definitely never going to see a player like Rob Burrow again. He was a once in a generation player and I have never ever seen anything like it, so fast and so tough, his speed off the mark and agility.

“He was an absolute legend. To do what he did on the field – I was a little bit older than him, and saw him and Danny McGuire come through at Leeds and I was like ‘wow who are these two kids?!’.

“He was such a tough cookie too. I played in the halves and tackled some big boppers – but he just flattened them every time. I even copped one off him a couple of times in a Grand Final. He’ll be sorely missed.”

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Sean Long: I gave my Great Britain jersey to Rob Burrow because he deserved it

Long recalls how he best got to know Burrow as person and player while on tour with Great Britain. Long controversially quit the 2006 tour Down Under, ultimately ending his own international career, and told staff that Burrow deserved the number 7 shirt more than he did. 

“I have the utmost praise and respect for him as a person as well as a player. I gave my Great Britain jersey to him because I thought he deserved it and deserved to play,” said Long, who was man of the match in the opening match of that 2006 series, producing arguably his finest ever international performance in a 23-12 win over Australia in Sydney, before returning home for personal reasons.

“I went on GB camp with Rob and roomed with him and he was a great bloke, so funny.

“Some probably didn’t see that side to him but he was a great bloke and a great family man and our hearts go out to his family. As a person and as a half-back he was one of the greats. 

“It is sad what has happened but we should be celebrating what he has achieved and what he has done for MND.”

Leeds will pay tribute to Burrow next Friday, when they host Leigh Leopards in the first match at Headingley since Burrow’s passing.

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