Prince Harry surprises rugby league players on sport's 125th birthday

Harry hosted the Rugby League World Cup 2021 draw at Buckingham Palace in January. Credit: PA

The Duke of Sussex has surprised rugby league players as part of celebrations to mark the sport’s 125th birthday.

Harry, who is patron of the Rugby Football League, talked by video link to players from all sections of the game about what it means to them - he then led the group in a set-of-six quiz as part of the birthday festivities.

Talking about the sport, he said: "It can bring so many families together, bring so many people together."

He added: "It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the stands, whether you’re the groundsman, whether you’re a player, whether you’re a fan or whether you’re a first-time watcher, every single person is bound by this family feeling."

The duke surprised the group by introducing a special guest – former Wigan and Great Britain captain Ellery Hanley.

Harry hosted the Rugby League World Cup 2021 draw at Buckingham Palace in January this year, and referenced the occasion in the call.

"We've got a whole rugby world cup, rugby league world cup, coming next year," he said.

"So I definitely plan on coming back, I would have been back already had it not been for covid."

Harry with young rugby league players at the World Cup draw in 2021. Credit: PA

Rugby league is one of the few sports that can point to the exact time and date of its founding, at 6.30pm on August 29 1895.

When 21 club representatives met at the George Hotel in Huddersfield that year - to resolve a dispute with the Rugby Football Union over broken-time payments to players - the group voted to break away from the governing body.

The result was the formation of the Northern Rugby Football Union which later became the Rugby Football League.

Officials gathered in St George’s Square in Huddersfield on Saturday to mark the anniversary.

The function was organised by Kirklees Council, which recently took ownership of the George Hotel - soon to become home to the new National Rugby League Museum.

International Rugby League chairman Greg Barclay sent his best wishes to the organisers, saying: "This is a proud day for everyone involved in our great sport.

"We have a very long and proud history which deserves to be recognised across the sporting landscape."