Nadine Dorries claims her rugby league gaffe has boosted publicity for the sport

Nadine Dorries said she had been thanked by the rugby league community. Credit: PA Images

Nadine Dorries has said her rugby league gaffe has helped boost publicity for the sport.

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary was invited to sample rugby league first hand after confusing the 13-man game with the rival union code.

The MP stunned a rugby league audience in St Helens by making reference to Jonny Wilkinson's match-winning drop goal for England, sealing victory over Australia in the 2003 Rugby World Cup final in Sydney.

The Rugby League World Cup gets underway in just under 100 days.

Bedfordshire MP Ms Dorries joked: "You are welcome" after telling MPs on Thursday that officials from the sport had informed her the game has "never had so much publicity".

Jonny Wilkinson sends over the drop goal to clinch the World Cup Credit: PA

Making a statement on her departmental responsibilities in the Commons during departmental questions, Ms Dorries said: "In the last few weeks, we have seen huge crowds at Her Majesty's Platinum Jubilee, Glastonbury, Silverstone and Wimbledon.

"The women's Euros kicked off last night and the Birmingham Commonwealth Gamesare on their way. It's set to be a great British summer of culture and sport.

"Speaking of sport, last week I was lucky enough to attend an event celebrating the upcoming Rugby League World Cup. I know the Speaker (Sir Lindsay Hoyle) is a huge fan of the sport.

"I know that, while I don't share his detailed expertise, I know that he will be delighted that rugby league's execs have told me, and Mr Speaker as well, I believe, that rugby league has never had so much publicity and so much attention for the game.

"And so, all I can say, Mr Speaker, is you are welcome."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...