Nadine Dorries says Jonny Wilkinson drop-goal her 'favourite rugby league memory'

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Jonny Wilkinson's World Cup-winning drop-goal - GETTY IMAGES
Jonny Wilkinson's World Cup-winning drop-goal - GETTY IMAGES

It was the most iconic moment in English rugby union history but Nadine Dorries, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, got her codes confused when she mistakenly referred to the 2003 World Cup final win over Australia as a rugby league game.

Dorries, a Conservative cabinet minister, was speaking at Portico Vine Amateur Rugby League Club in St Helens, Merseyside, at an event to celebrate the effect of a Social Impact Programme as part of the rearranged 2021 Rugby League World Cup, which takes place in England this autumn.

More than £25.8 million has been spent on projects delivering positive changes in communities across northern England.

Yet Dorries began her speech at the event by appearing to refer to the moment when Jonny Wilkinson kicked the winning drop-goal against the Wallabies in the World Cup final of the 15-a-side code nearly 18 years ago.

She said: "I’ve always quite liked the idea of rugby league and my long-standing memory is that 2003 drop-goal.

"I’ll let you into a secret, I think we were drinking Bloody Mary’s at the time, it was 11 o'clock in the morning, but wow.

"What a moment that was and I know from my limited watching - I’m not going to say I’m an expert who watches it all the time - that it’s an increasingly physical and sometimes brutal sport and it often ends up in a scrum which actually reminds me very much of politics.

"I think we have a lot in common and, given a lot of the media like to call me the Prime Minister’s attack dog, I wonder sometimes if I should give rugby a go."

Dorries' error raised eyebrows at the event and Billy Vaughan, vice-chairman of Portico Vine, was taken aback by the minister's address.

He said: "Whoever writes these scripts should check their facts before the speeches are delivered.

"And secondly, if you are the person who is delivering the speech then you need to do your research to check the information you have been given is correct.

"The difference between rugby league and rugby union is immense - we are the minnow by comparison.

"I applaud the Government for the money they have invested in rugby league but to make that reference to the drop-goal - we were floundered."

Ralph Rimmer, the Rugby Football League chief operating officer, refused to criticise Dorries.

The Government has supported the Rugby League World Cup with £25m and Rimmer said: "I'm not going to dwell on that [faux pas].

"It's brilliant that she's here and we've had fantastic support from the Government. I'm not going to knock the shine off any of that.

"She gets a chance to see us as we really are and good on her for coming up."

Dorries took to Twitter this afternoon to defend herself, saying: "Like Jason Robinson I may have switched codes in my speech... both league & union have a rich heritage in the UK. Obviously I've followed rugby league much less in my lifetime, but I'm looking forward to watching England (& all the home nations) in the RL World Cup this Autumn."

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