Prince William met rugby heroes Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield at Headingley Stadium in Leeds as he returned to public duties on Thursday after his Christmas break.
Mike, who is the husband of William’s cousin, Zara, confessed on Rob’s podcast last month that he refers to the Prince of Wales as “One Pint Willy because he’s not the best of drinkers”.
Laughing he added: “It’s out there now, sorry sir” while Zara jokes: “You’re in so much trouble!”
During his outing, the Prince of Wales surprised Rob and Kevin by awarding them with their CBEs, which they received in the New Year’s Honours List for their incredible efforts to raise awareness of and funds to fight Motor Neurone Disease (MND).
Rob was diagnosed with MND in December 2019, just two years after retiring from his position as scrum half at Leeds Rhinos, for whom he played throughout his entire professional career.
Since his diagnosis Rob has inspired nearly £15 million of fundraising activity, including over £8.5 million raised by his friend and former teammate, Kevin.
The Prince told them: “I have brought a special couple of things up to give you today. I did check with Kevin to make sure that you didn’t want to come to London to receive these. But I have brought your CBEs up here today and I thought I might give them to you, if that’s ok, in your home, Leeds, surrounded by your family and friends. I thought today was a good day to present your CBEs.
“Thank you and congratulations for all the inspirational work you have done, Rob. You’ve been amazing, you really have. Everyone is proud of you and has been following your case and the money you have been raising. You have changed so many people’s lives with MND. We are all so proud of you.”
Turning to Kevin, William said: “Huge, huge congregations, you are an inspiration, you really are, thank you. You’ve raised so much. Your brotherly bond and relationship between the two of you has been so amazing to watch. An inspiration to everyone.”
Speaking through a computerised speech aide, Rob, 41, said: “I am proud to accept it on behalf of the whole MND community. Days like today allow us to keep a spotlight on the disease and continue to raise awareness and hopefully funds to fight the disease and support those who are living with MND and their families. It was wonderful that His Royal Highness was able to come to Headingley to see us and very much appreciated. It was lovely to talk to him and for him to meet my family.”
In 2020, Kevin raised over £2 million as he ran seven marathons in seven days.
Every year since then, Kevin has undertaken endurance challenges, including the inaugural Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon in May 2023, when he touched the nation’s hearts by carrying Rob across the finish line.
During their meeting, William heard from both men about their fundraising efforts over the past four years, as well as their rugby careers, where they won seven Grand Finals, two Challenge Cup Finals at Wembley, and three World Club titles together.
In addition to supporting a number of charities, including the Motor Neurone Disease Association, Leeds Hospitals Charity, The Darby Rimmer MND Foundation, Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association and My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, the money raised is also being used to build the Rob Burrow Centre for MND.
The Centre will be a purpose-built facility at Seacroft Hospital in Leeds and will see all the needs of an MND patient and their families met in one building.