Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has dropped the ball during a rugby event – by getting the sport’s rival codes mixed up.

Ms Dorries, whose departmental remit covers sport, sought to illustrate her enthusiasm for rugby league by reminiscing about watching Jonny Wilkinson’s drop goal for England in 2003 – which won the rugby union world cup.

The two codes have operated separately since 1895 when rugby league – which has its roots in northern England – broke away from then-amateur rugby union to start a new professional competition.

Key differences between the codes include the number of players on each team: rugby union has 15 on each side while rugby league has 13.
Ms Dorries told the event in St Helens – in rugby league’s heartland: “I’ve always quite liked the idea of rugby league. My long-standing memory is that 2003 drop goal.
“I’ll let you into a secret. I think we were drinking Bloody Marys at the time. It was 11 o’clock in the morning but wow what a moment that was.”
It is Ms Dorries’ latest gaffe following a much-mocked TikTok video in which she talked about her responsibilities running the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

They apparently included being responsible for superfast broadband so people can “downstream” films as well as having “tennis pitches” in communities.
The culture secretary’s most recent comments came at the launch of a report into the social impact made by the 2021 Rugby League World Cup being held in England in October and November.

She was on perhaps firmer ground as she drew comparisons between the “incredibly physical and sometimes brutal sport” and the world 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,” she said.

Rugby Football League chief executive Ralph Rimmer refused to criticise the secretary of state for her mix-up, preferring to thank the government for its £25m backing.
He said: “I’m not going to dwell on that. 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.”

Ms Dorries later acknowledged her gaffe in a Twitter post making reference to a player who has turned out for teams in both forms of the game.
She said: “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.”

In 2021, Ms Dorries, who is from Liverpool, spoke in parliament about her interest in “football as well as in rugby league”

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