Kevin Sinfield said the world has lost “a great man and a wonderful friend” as he paid an emotional tribute to Rob Burrow following his death at the age of 41.

Sinfield described his former Leeds Rhinos team-mate as a “beacon of hope and inspiration” since his motor neurone disease diagnosis in December 2019.

Leeds announced on Sunday evening that their former scrum-half had died after a four-and-a-half-year battle with the incurable disease.

Sinfield and Burrow raised millions together for charity in a campaign to raise awareness and fund research.

“Today was the day that I hoped would never come,” Sinfield wrote on social media.

“The world has lost a great man and a wonderful friend to so many. You fought so bravely until the end and became a beacon of hope and inspiration, not only for the MND community but for all those who saw and heard your story.

“My love and thoughts go to your beautiful family, Lindsey, Macy, Maya and Jackson, to your parents Geoff and Irene, sisters Joanne and Claire and your wider family and friends.

“You will continue to inspire me every single day. I have lost a dear friend and will never forget the special times we shared both on and off the pitch.

Kevin SinfieldRob Burrow alongside wife Lindsey (who ran the half marathon), daughters Macy and Maya and Kevin Sinfield who ran the full marathon all pose for a picture after the Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon (Danny Lawson/PA)

“I would always say that you were pound for pound the toughest player I ever played alongside, however, since your diagnosis, you were the toughest and bravest man I have ever met.

“The last four and a half years you showed the world what living and loving looked like and this was always done with the biggest smile on your face.

“I will miss you my little mate. All my love, Kev. X”

Kevin SinfieldKevin Sinfield after finishing on The Mall on day seven of the 7 in 7 Challenge in London (Zac Goodwin/PA)

It is estimated that Sinfield has raised more than £8million since beginning a number of gruelling challenges in 2020 to raise money.

In December last year he ran seven ultra-marathons in as many days across seven different cities, crossing the finishing line at The Mall in London after also completing 27-mile routes in Leeds, Cardiff, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Dublin and Brighton.

The target was to raise £777,777 and the Motor Neurone Disease Association confirmed that total was exceeded through online and other donations.

Speaking to the crowd after completing his fourth fundraising challenge, Sinfield said: “Fundraising is so important.

“We tried to push how important the money is because that’s the thing that’s going to shift the dial for us. That’s the thing that’s going to get us a cure.

“It’s also the thing that’s going to make sure families are looked after properly. If there’s one thing you leave with today from our team, it’s that.”

In May, Sinfield said he would be fundraising again in 2024, intending to run seven ultra marathons in seven successive days in December.