Leeds Rhinos’ current scrum-half Luke Gale has lauded Rob Burrow as the “most coveted number seven in Super League history” ahead of tomorrow’s emotional benefit game.
England star Gale admits he cannot wait to hopefully line up alongside the legendary 37-year-old against Bradford Bulls at Emerald Headingley.
Burrow will take to the field at some point during Jamie Jones-Buchanan’s testimonial which is raising funds for the ex-Great Britain international as he fights motor neurone disease.
Having won eight Grand Finals with Leeds and played more than 400 games for the club, Burrow is one of the most decorated players in the sport’s history.
Gale, 31, started his own career in the Rhinos academy but left without playing a senior game, mainly due to Burrow being such a dominant influence.
He has spent much of his own career since going up against him – whether with Harlequins, Bradford or Castleford Tigers – and admits he has been an inspirational influence.
I have always wanted to wear that number seven shirt. If I could do half the job myself that Rob did, I’d be doing myself and Leeds proud. And I’ll be immensely proud playing in this game.Leeds Rhinos’ Luke Gale
Two years since Burrow’s retirement, Gale now gets to wear that No7 jersey himself following his big-money from Castleford.
“Rob wore it for so many years and, for me, he is probably the most coveted seven in Super League history,” said the Leeds-born player, praise indeed considering the likes of Sean Long, Andrew Johns, Alfie Langer and Adrian Lam have all graced that stage.
“That’s because of just how he wore the shirt and how much pride he had in it, how tough he was and resilient.
“I have always wanted to wear that number seven shirt.
“If I could do half the job myself that Rob did, I’d be doing myself and Leeds proud.
“And I’ll be immensely proud playing in this game.”
Burrow’s last game, of course, was in the 2017 Grand Final when Leeds beat Gale’s Castleford at Old Trafford, denying their West Yorkshire rivals a maiden championship title.
With another iconic half-back from Rhinos’ ‘golden generation’ – Danny McGuire – also returning to play in Leeds colours again for the first time since, Gale is keen to line-up alongside them both.
“I don’t know how it’s going to work, to be honest,” he said, with the likes of Burrow, McGuire, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai expected to make their cameos towards the end of the game.
“We’ll discuss it with coach Rich (Agar) but just to be involved in the occasion – in the build-up, to walk out with them and having Rob play seven – is amazing for me.
“The support has been unbelievable. It will be a massive honour to take part and all the boys are looking forward to it.
“It’s going to be a packed house, too, which the guys deserve.”
More than £225,000 has already been raised for the Rob Burrow Fund and it is expected to reach its £250,000 target soon.
Rhinos, meanwhile, have been in Spain this week completing some warm-weather training.
They flew home on Thursday to make final preparations for tomorrow’s sold-out contest.
“The camp’s been awesome,” said Gale, the 2017 Man of Steel who is looking to bounce back this term after two seasons ruined by injury.
“It’s always good to get a bit of sun on your back and we’ve trained hard.
“It’s been a really successful camp and now – getting these skills done – it’s come at a perfect time after eight weeks pre-season.
“Everyone is now looking forward to playing and getting a game under our belts as we build up towards the Super League kick-off against Hull FC.”
Gale played with Bradford for three years from 2012 to 2014.
“I’m not sure who’ll be in there and if there’ll be many still from when I played for them,” he said.
“There’s been a few changes since but Leeds v Bradford is always a massive game and I’m sure this will live up to the billing.”
Rhinos’ head coach Richard Agar named 21-man squad for tomorrow’s sold out clash, with new signings Matt Prior and Alex Mellor set to make their first appearances for the club .
Youngster Jack Broadbent is also on standby after impressing during camp in Spain this week.
Agar will reduce his matchday squad to 19 in the morning, with the Rhinos yesterday confirming that Peacock, Kevin Sinfield, McGuire and Leuluai will join Burrow and Jones-Buchanan for the closing stages on the pitch for one last time together.
Gale is also an ambassador for the 2021 World Cup and he is elated to see Prince Harry will be conducting the tournament draw at Buckingham Palace on Thursday.
“It is unbelievable,” said the player, who was England’s starting scrum-half in the 2017 World Cup final.
“I’m going to try and get down to it myself.
“It’s really big for rugby league and well done to Jon Dutton and the 2021 World Cup guys for getting this sorted.
“It really is amazing to think the World Cup draw will be staged at Buckingham Palace.
“It’s a massive coup for rugby league and massive credit to them.”
Organisers yesterday revealed Dame Katherine Grainger – the former rower who remains Great Britain’s most decorated female Olympian – and dual-code legend Jason Robinson will join Prince Harry to make the draw.