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UK politician responds after World Cup gaffe

By AAP
Jonny Wilkinson of England kicks the winning drop-goal against Australia in the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final at the Telstra Stadium on November 22nd 2003 in Sydney, Australia (Photo by Tom Jenkins/Getty Images).

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Having eaten an ostrich anus, a camel’s toe and lamb’s testicles in the Australian bush during a reality TV show there is little British politician Nadine Dorries could do to surprise.

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Since becoming a surprise selection for UK PM Boris Johnson’s cabinet, the Conservative Member of Parliament has regularly proved that supposition wrong.

But the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport surpassed herself on Thursday.

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Dan Biggar talks about the ‘no fear’ factor in the Wales team
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Dan Biggar talks about the ‘no fear’ factor in the Wales team

Speaking at an event to promote this year’s Rugby League World Cup she said: “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.”

That ‘2003 drop goal’ was, of course, scored in Sydney by Jonny Wilkinson for England against Australia to win rugby union’s World Cup.

It should not be that easy to confuse rugby league and rugby union, not if you are the government minister with responsibility for sport.

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League has 13 players and union 15. League doesn’t have line-outs, proper scrums or phases of play that go beyond six tackles.

And most pertinently for a government trying to curry favour with northern voters, in England league is traditionally played by hard-bitten men from northern mining towns while union is the province of ex-public school boys who move on to posh jobs in the city.

That Dorries was speaking in league’s heartland, in the Lancashire town of St Helen’s, only made the gaffe worse.

Having been informed of her blunder, Dorries tweeted: “Like (former England union and league winger) Jason Robinson I may have switched codes in my speech.

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“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.”

The tournament takes place from October 15 – November 19.

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