A look at The Duke of Sussex’s involvement with rugby league

Organisers of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup promised an “iconic” venue when they put back the draw from November and have duly delivered on their pledge.

The Duke of Sussex will act as host for the draw at Buckingham Palace at his first function since the bombshell announcement that he and wife Meghan are to scale back on their Royal duties.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at Harry’s involvement with rugby league.

Prince Harry visit to Leeds
The Duke of Sussex spoke with local players at Headingley in July 2017 as former Leeds star Kevin Sinfield, right, looks on (Paul Ellis/PA)

Harry was announced as patron of the Rugby Football League in December 2016, succeeding his grandmother The Queen, who had performed the role for 64 years.

The duke conducted his first official engagement when he visited the Headingley Stadium in Leeds on Thursday, July 6, 2017 to attend a Sky Try Rugby League Festival, part of a seven-year programme designed to get more than 700,000 children from schools across the country playing rugby league.

The activities were led by local coaches from the Leeds Rhinos Foundation assisted by RFL rugby director Kevin Sinfield MBE, England assistant coach Paul Sculthorpe and England and Leeds players Kallum Watkins and Ryan Hall.

Harry heard more about the Sky Try programme before meeting children, coaches and players on the pitch.

🗣️ We’re delighted to reveal that HRH, The Duke of Sussex will host the #RLWC2021 draws at Buckingham Palace on 16 January.

The draws will be live streamed on @RLWC2021 and @royalfamily Twitter channels: https://t.co/R7YtAKHD66#RLWC2021Drawpic.twitter.com/zBBGNRYWTl

— Rugby League World Cup 2021 (@RLWC2021) January 8, 2020

While in Leeds, the duke attended a charity event on mental health along with another Leeds player, Stevie Ward, and spoke about the turmoil he endured while trying to come to terms with the death of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.

Harry attended a reception hosted by the England team in Manchester on Monday, September 4.

As part of a trip to the Etihad complex, Harry visited a number of organisations and projects which each work in different ways to support sections of the city’s community, the duke met the England squad at their final meeting ahead of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.

St Helens v Warrington Wolves – Coral Challenge Cup – Final – Wembley Stadium
The duke presented the Challenge Cup to Warrington last August (Paul Harding/PA)

RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer revealed this week that, unprompted, when England reached the World Cup final in November, Harry produced a video which was shown internally. Rimmer described it as “a great piece of work”.

The patron was chief guest at the 2019 Challenge Cup final between Warrington and St Helens on August 24, when he met representatives of the Leeds’ women and wheelchair teams, as well as the Champion Schools finalists, and presented the major trophy to the winning captain, Chris Hill of Warrington.

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