Nadine Dorries stuns Rugby League World Cup event by mixing sport up with union

Sport Secretary Nadine Dorries has stunned a rugby league audience by confusing the 13-man game with the rival code.

Speaking in St Helens at the launch of a report into the social impact made by the 2021 Rugby League World Cup, Dorries opened her address with a reference to Jonny Wilkinson’s match-winning drop goal for England in the 2003 Rugby Union World Cup.

“I’ve always quite liked the idea of rugby league,” she said. “My long-standing memory is that 2003 drop goal.

“I’ll let you into a secret. I think we were drinking Bloody Mary’s at the time. It was 11 o’clock in the morning but wow what a moment that was.”

Dorries, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, added: “I have heard and I know from my limited watching that it’s an incredibly physical and sometimes brutal sport and it often ends up in a scrum, which actually reminds me very much of politics.

“I think we have a lot in common and given a lot of the media like to call me the prime minister’s attack dog, I wonder sometimes if I should give rugby a go.”

Rugby Football League chief executive Ralph Rimmer refused to criticise Dorries for her faux pas, preferring to thank the Government for its £25million backing.

“I’m not going to dwell on that,” Rimmer said. “It’s brilliant that she’s here and we’ve had fantastic support from the Government. I’m not going to knock the shine off any of that.

Nadine Dorries speaking at the event.

“She gets a chance to see us as we really are and good on her for coming up.”

World Cup chief executive Jon Dutton said he would be inviting Dorries back to attend the matches “to see for herself what a wonderful sport rugby league is”.

“We’re delighted that she came,” Dutton said. “We’re delighted that the Government has shown such a massive commitment to investing into the tournament and its social impact programme.

“My final words to the Secretary of State were that we would be delighted if she were to come back to the tournament, maybe to attend each of the three disciplines and see for herself what a wonderful sport rugby league is.”

Following the event, Ms Dorries made a light-hearted comparison between herself and Jason Robinson, who famously switched from playing rugby league to rugby union.

She said: "Like Jason Robinson I may have switched codes in my speech... Both league & union have a rich heritage in the UK. Obviously I've followed rugby league much less in my lifetime, but I'm looking forward to watching England (& all the home nations) in the RL World Cup this autumn."

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