Mourners line streets to pay final respects to Rob Burrow ahead of funeral

Thousands of mourners have gathered to pay tribute to rugby league star and motor neurone disease campaigner Rob Burrow ahead of his funeral.

The former Leeds Rhinos star and England international died on 2 June at the age of 41 after a lengthy battle with the illness.

His private funeral service is being held at Pontefract Crematorium, with 7 July selected to recognise the shirt number he wore throughout his rugby league career.

Supporters came out in rugby kit, many with Burrow’s name and a 7 on the back, to applaud as the funeral cortege made its way to the service.

Hundreds of mourners have lined the streets as the funeral cortege makes its way to the service (Peter Byrne/PA Wire)
Hundreds of mourners have lined the streets as the funeral cortege makes its way to the service (Peter Byrne/PA Wire)

Yellow and white flowers – the colours of Leeds Rhinos – were thrown onto the windscreen of the hearse.

Among mourners gathering at the crematorium was his best friend and former teammate Kevin Sinfield, with whom he raised more than £15m for motor neurone disease (MND) charities, following his diagnosis.

Crowds were seen wearing rugby shirts with Burrow’s name and the number seven on the back (Peter Byrne/PA Wire)
Crowds were seen wearing rugby shirts with Burrow’s name and the number seven on the back (Peter Byrne/PA Wire)
The funeral cortege arrives at Pontefract Crematorium in Wakefield (Ian Hodgson/PA Wire)
The funeral cortege arrives at Pontefract Crematorium in Wakefield (Ian Hodgson/PA Wire)

Bob Woodhead, who coached Burrow as a child described him as a “keen, enthusiastic and polite” young man.

“He was a privilege to coach, to be honest,” Mr Woodhead told the BBC.

“All I wanted to do was to help him progress.

“Despite everyone over the years saying he was too small, I just cast my mind back to (rugby league legend) Roger Millward. Everyone said he was too small and look what he became over his career.”

His best friend and former teammate Kevin Sinfield was among the mourners gathering at the crematorium (Ian Hodgson/PA Wire)
His best friend and former teammate Kevin Sinfield was among the mourners gathering at the crematorium (Ian Hodgson/PA Wire)

In her first interview since his death,  Burrow’s wife Lindsey told BBC Breakfast last month: “He was an inspiration to so many. He was the face of the MND community.

“Despite the grief and the sadness, we have so much to be thankful for, for having him in our lives and making the world a better place to be.

“I’m proud to have been his wife for 17 and a half years and to have three beautiful children with Rob. I’ll do everything I can to make sure they’re brought up as Rob would want them to be – to be kind and caring and to appreciate the things in life. Rob was very much like that – very down to earth, never had an ego, such a lovely kind man.”

The Motor Neurone Disease Association paid tribute to the rugby star ahead of the funeral.

“Today, on Rob Burrow Day and the day of Rob’s funeral, we want to pay tribute to all he has done for the MND Association and the MND community.” the charity wrote on X.

“We will be forever grateful. Thank you Rob.”

Burrow spent his entire career with Leeds Rhinos and helped them win eight Super League titles.

He retired in 2017 but two years later it was revealed he had been diagnosed with MND.

Burrow was made an MBE in the 2021 New Year Honours for his services to rugby league and the MND community and made a CBE in the New Year Honours in 2024.