Rugby league talking points: Leeds Rhinos icons to support Rob Burrow and Jamie Jones-Buchanan
Watch the joint Rob Burrow fundraiser and Jamie Jones-Buchanan testimonial between Leeds Rhinos and Bradford Bulls live on Sky Sports Arena and Sky Sports Mix from 3pm on Sunday.
By Marc Bazeley
Last Updated: 11/01/20 8:02pm
It will be an emotional day at Headingley on Sunday when some of Leeds Rhinos' greats reunite to support two of their former team-mates in the clash with Bradford Bulls.
The joint Rob Burrow fundraiser and Jamie Jones-Buchanan testimonial between the two rivals is set to be played in front of a sell-out crowd and has a significance which stretches beyond the sport itself.
We look ahead to that encounter, plus take a look at some of the talking points around the weekend's other warm-up games and Challenge Cup first-round matches…
- Burrow 'overwhelmed' by support
- McDermott: Sunday will be 'emotional'
- Behind Burrow's Super Bowl surprise
Friends reunited on the pitch
When he finally decided to hang up his boots following a six-month spell playing rugby union for Yorkshire Carnegie, Kevin Sinfield vowed he would not set foot on the field again.
But on Sunday, he will be making an exception to that vow when he and several other Leeds Rhinos icons pull on the club's shirt one final time to honour two of their former team-mates.
Sinfield will be joined by Jamie Peacock, Kylie Leuluai and Danny McGuire to play in the clash with Bradford Bulls at Headingley, which serves as a joint testimonial for the retiring Jamie Jones-Buchanan and a fundraiser for Rob Burrow following his motor neurone disease diagnosis.
The 39-year-old, who is now the Rhinos' director of rugby, is happy to play a part to help out close friend Jones-Buchanan and former team-mate Burrow as some of the leading lights of Leeds' 21st century golden era reunite.
"I did say I'd never play again, but some things are bigger than that and the friendship we've got is really important to me," Sinfield told Rhinos TV.
"And then there's Rob. He's saying he's going to step out for a few minutes and that's really important for all of that group who played together.
"It would be really special at the end if a number of us are on the field at the same time, especially for Jamie and Rob - both for different reasons, but for two very important reasons."
The match, which is being broadcast live on Sky Sports, will see a 20,000 capacity crowd in attendance and Bradford are playing their part in fundraising for Burrow too.
The Bulls' academy squad will be raising money by joining the 11-mile walk from Odsal to Headingley for the match, having also purchased their own tickets for the contest between the two old rivals.
"As soon as the lads heard the tragic news regarding Rob Burrow's diagnosis they were keen to get involved and help anyway they could, which is credit to them," Bradford head of youth/academy Leigh Beattie said.
Gale aims to live up to legacy
The No. 7 shirt became synonymous with Burrow during those trophy-laden years for the Rhinos, with the latest incumbent fully aware of the significance attached to it.
Luke Gale will be the man pulling it on for Leeds during the 2020 Super League season after completing his move from Castleford Tigers in the off-season.
The 31-year-old knows all about Burrow's qualities from playing against him down the years and is determined to live up to his legacy.
"Coming to Leeds, it's big shoes to fill because I've played against him for many years," Gale told Rhinos TV. "He's one of the best competitors I've ever played against.
"I've watched him play for the past 10-plus years and when we found out about the news it was sad. It hit the team quite hard, to be honest.
"I've got a massive sense of pride in my jersey. He wore it well for so many years and I've got a job to do to follow that up."
Richard Agar has named his 21 man squad for Sunday's SOLD OUT clash with Bradford Bulls at Emerald Headingley. The squad will be reduced to 19 for the match with Matt Prior and Alex Mellor likely to make their first appearances for the Rhinos. Watch the action live on @SkySports pic.twitter.com/5YpAfpV96N— Leeds Rhinos (@leedsrhinos) January 10, 2020
Along with serving as a testimonial for Jones-Buchanan and a fundraiser for Burrow, the match against Bradford - now a Championship club - sees Gale up against one of the teams he previously starred for in Super League.
"It's Jonesy testimonial and we're doing it for Rob Burrow as well, so there are a couple of important parts about it," Gale said.
"It's one of my former clubs and I'm not sure about the reception I'll get, but I'm sure it will be pumping. I'm looking forward to it."
Trinity to honour Brough
Jones-Buchanan is not the only player having a testimonial this weekend, with two other players receiving the honour from their respective clubs in recognition of their years of service.
On Saturday, Wakefield Trinity's match at home to Super League rivals Hull Kingston Rovers will see the club honour Danny Brough, who is closing in on 500 appearances during a career which included spells with Dewsbury Rams, York City Knights, Hull FC, Castleford and Huddersfield Giants.
The Scotland international half-back came through the youth ranks at Trinity before making his professional bow with Dewsbury, returning for a two-season spell in 2008 and then re-signing again last year after leading Huddersfield.
We are playing for a guy that has been a great servant to Wakefield and a great servant to rugby league," Trinity head coach Chris Chester told the Wakefield Express.
"He has played over 500 first-grade games. I have known him for a long time and I hope that the Wakefield public get behind it."
The following day, Jermaine McGillvary will have his testimonial when Huddersfield host Championship side Halifax.
Aside from loan spells with Barrow Raiders and Batley Bulldogs, the Great Britain winger has played his entire professional career with his hometown club.
Elsewhere, Salford Red Devils continue their build-up to the new season with a match against Championship side Leigh Centurions.
Welsh champions are up for the Cup
Rhondda Outlaws face one of their biggest tests to date when they take the first steps on the road to Wembley in their Challenge Cup debut on Saturday.
We are on our way to the biggest game in our short history.— Rhondda Outlaws RL (@Rhonddaoutlaws) January 10, 2020
🏴 @BarrowIslandARL VS Rhondda Outlaws 🏴@TheChallengeCup Round 1
Saturday 11th January 2020
13:30 Kick Off
Its nice of Barrow Island to put this welcome sign out for us. Diolch boyos. pic.twitter.com/6bnvgsT5L2
The Welsh champions have made rapid strides since their formation in 2017 and the entry into the prestigious knock-out competition has thrown up a long trip to National Conference League side Barrow Island in the first round.
"The first season we won just one game and were on the end of a number of hammerings, we improved slightly in the second season but to then go on and lose just one game in 2019 was a huge achievement," Outlaws head coach James Allen said.
"And now we get to compete in the Challenge Cup and, if I'm honest, I don't think it has hit home for some of the boys yet. I don't think the occasion will really sink in for them until they take to the field at Barrow this weekend."
A total of 44 sides - including teams representing the Army, Royal Navy, RAF and Police - from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland are involved in this weekend's first-round matches as well.