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Rugby legend and motor neurone disease campaigner Rob Burrow launches BBC podcast

Rugby League legend Rob Burrow MBE has launched a new BBC England podcast showcasing inspirational stories from sporting greats.

In each episode the legendary Leeds Rhino star, who has motor neurone disease and communicates via a computerised voice, talks to a different sports person about their careers, challenges, and successful moments.

The podcast, called Seven: Rob Burrow after the number on his rugby shirt, is a seven part-series which will be available on The Total Sport Podcast on BBC Sounds. It will be available weekly from today, Tuesday, November 7, on BBC Sounds.

Among those who stand up to the host’s cheeky interviewing style is England football star and current Birmingham City manager, Wayne Rooney.

In the first episode, Rooney recalls how nervous he felt when he was asked to present Rob and the Rhinos with their team shirts ahead of the 2012 Grand Final against Warrington. The formwe Manchester United star also reveals how Burrow’s energy and positivity has inspired everyone around him.

He said: “I know first-hand the impact this [illness] can have on yourself and people around you. Everyone must change the way of living and I had that with my sister-in-law who suffered not the same illness, but something as severe. But your energy and positivity helps everyone else around you, I can see the money you have raised for charity and to help others, it’s really inspiring.”

Other friends interviewed on the podcast include former England rugby union player and world-cup winner, Jonny Wilkinson; British double-Olympic gold medallist, Dame Kelly Holmes; former Scottish rugby union player, Kenny Logan and his wife, BBC sports presenter Gabby Logan; seven -time Paralympic World Champion Hannah Cockcroft, and with further sporting greats still to be announced.

Burrow said: “I have loved making this podcast and talking to many inspirational sporting heroes and friends. Having this disease doesn’t mean I don’t have a voice. I live life to the full every day and refuse to give in. I’ve really enjoyed being able to showcase my personality in my podcast and have a laugh.”

Burrow is a patron of the Motor Neurone Disease Association, which has helped with his AI technology and the creation of his computerised ‘Yorkshire’ voice. It has also helped Burrow with his eye-gaze technology, which has enabled him to make the series.

Tanya Curry, CEO of the Motor Neurone Disease Association, said: “By using his communication aid to converse with guests, Rob is continuing to push boundaries of what is possible when living with MND and raising awareness that around 80% of people living with MND will experience changes to their speech after being diagnosed with the disease. The podcast is sure to pull in a breadth of listeners – rugby fans, members of the MND community and the wider public – and we can’t wait to listen to what promises to be a truly entertaining and enlightening series.”

Chris Burns, BBC Controller of Local Audio Commissioning added: “This is a ground-breaking podcast hosted by one of rugby’s best known players. By working closely with Lindsey Burrow and with the support of innovative technology this is an opportunity for many to enjoy Rob’s irrepressible sense of humour and positivity as he chats to a selection of impressive guests. Local BBC Radio loves to bring inspirational stories to audiences across England, and this is one such unmissable story.”

Seven: Rob Burrow is a BBC England production for BBC Sounds. It is available as part of The Total Sport Podcast from today with other episodes dropping Wednesdays. It will also be serialised on BBC Radio Leeds.

The commissioning of the podcast underlines the BBC’s commitment to make more content across the country, getting closer to our audiences to better reflect, represent and serve all parts of the UK.

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