Leeds Rhinos great Rob Burrow has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease, he has announced.
The 37-year-old spent his entire playing career with Leeds, making his debut in 2001 and retiring in 2017. He won the Super League eight times with the West Yorkshire club and played for Great Britain and England.
He is currently the reserve team coach at Leeds and said in a statement: “Regrettably, today I am confirming that I have been diagnosed with motor neurone disease.
“I would like to thank everyone for the support I have received already since being given my diagnosis.
“I know I have a big challenge in front of me but knowing that I have the love and support of so many people will give me inspiration and strength.
“I am very positive about the situation and intend to battle the condition as I still feel fit and well.”
Father-of-three Burrow added: “I would like to ask for privacy at this time so I can adjust to the battle I have ahead and so that I can spend time with those closest to me ahead of Christmas and New Year.”
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Rhinos director of rugby Kevin Sinfield, who played alongside Burrow for more than a decade, said: “This has been devastating news and heartbreaking for Rob and his young family.
“The thoughts of everyone at Leeds Rhinos and, I am sure, throughout the rugby league family is with Rob and his wife Lindsey.
“Throughout his career, Rob overcame the odds to become a legend of the game and I know he will tackle this challenge with the exact same positive determination.”
Sinfield said Burrow had already discussed the neurodegenerative condition with Scotland rugby union favourite Doddie Weir, a fellow MND sufferer.
Leeds said they had set up a fund to support Burrow’s treatment, and to help his young family.
In a stellar playing career, he made 492 appearances for Leeds, scoring 196 tries, helping the Headingley outfit land Challenge Cup titles in 2014 and 2015 and three World Club Challenge successes.