Players talk of poppy pride

Poppy or not poppy, that is the question
Poppy or not poppy, that is the question

WIGAN’s international rugby league stars have spoken of their pride at wearing poppies on their shirts at this weekend’s Four Nations matches.

The England team will wear poppies ironed on their shirt sleeves when they meet New Zealand at Hull’s KC Stadium, while their opponents will sport the remembrance symbol on their chests.

In the weekend’s other rugby league international, Wales and Australia will also wear poppies on their shirts, when they clash at Wrexham.


The announcement comes in the wake of a massive row involving FIFA and the England football team, after football’s governing body said the England team would not be able to wear poppies embroidered on their shirts in this Saturday’s friendly against Spain – despite a special plea from the FA.

Wigan Warriors players said it means a lot to be commemorating Allied soldiers killed during the two world wars.

Full-back Sam Tomkins said: “I will be wearing my poppy with pride on Saturday, as will all the England players.

“We have worn poppies on our England jerseys for the last few years, and it is entirely the right thing to do.

“Remembrance Day is very special and it’s important that everyone does what they can to support this very worthy cause.

“As sportsmen, we are often portrayed as heroes, but the real heroes are the servicemen and women who have been involved in conflicts past and present.

“Supporting the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal is the least we can do.”

Half-back and hooker Thomas Leuluai, who will line up for New Zealand against his club team-mates, said: “It means a lot to me and to all of us. We’re proud to be wearing poppies on our jerseys when we play England this weekend.

“It’s important for us to acknowledge those who suffered for us in the past whenever we can. Remembrance Day is one of those times.

“This is our way of doing what we can to show how much it means to us.”

The issue provoked a storm of controversy after FIFA turned down a Football Association request to wear embroidered poppies at this weekend’s game, saying it would “open the door to similar initiatives” from across the world and “jeopardise the neutrality of football”.


Local politicians have stepped into the row to criticise FIFA.

North West UKIP MEP Paul Nuttall said: “It is only fit and proper that our lads should proudly wear a poppy on their shirts this weekend.

“I think it is a disgrace that our footballers should be prevented from showing their respect for those who have laid down their lives for us and those willing to do so.”

The Wigan rugby league community also backed the decision to allow the teams to wear poppies.

Wigan supporter Gerry McDonagh said: “It puts the RFL in a very good light and shows that they are a bit closer to the people who watch the sport than FIFA are.

“I don’t think wearing a poppy on a shirt is harming anybody, and it seems to me FIFA make a lot of rules with no thought of the impact it has on the member nations.”

England rugby league coach Steve McNamara said: “We are honoured and delighted to be wearing the poppy on the shirt this weekend against New Zealand.

“It’s one of the most worthwhile causes out there, and to remember those soldiers who have fought and died for our country means a lot to me and the players.

“We will make sure we will honour this by wearing the poppy and being respectful throughout this poignant weekend.”