Wife of former rugby league player to sing Abide With Me

This weekend Leeds Rhinos, St Helens, Leigh Leopards, Hull KR, Halifax Panthers and Batley Bulldogs are all headed to Wembley for a triple header of exciting major finals.

It is the first time since 1986 that none Wigan Warriors, Warrington Wolves, Leeds and St Helens haven’t been in the Men’s Challenge Cup Final.

Meanwhile, in the women’s game it is the two teams who have won the last four Challenge Cups between them and the Saints are chasing a third straight Challenge Cup.

There are plenty of traditions around the Challenge Cup Final from the walk out, the handshakes, the location but of course the biggest is the singing of Abide With Me.

This along with Jerusalem at the Grand Final are the special performances and hold a lot of emotional resonance.

Lizzie Jones MBE is relishing being part of history at Wembley Stadium this weekend as she sings Abide with Me and the National Anthem before the two Betfred Challenge Cup Finals.

Lizzie has become a much-loved part of Cup Final tradition herself since she earned national admiration and acclaim in August 2015, making her Wembley singing debut months after the tragic loss of her husband Danny when he was playing for Keighley Cougars against London Skolars.

But this will be the first time she has “doubled up”, with the historic decision to take the Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup Final to Wembley Stadium for the first time in 2023 meaning an extra chance for the crowd to enjoy her singing – and a busy day for Rugby League’s favourite chanteuse.

“It’s always an honour for me to sing Abide with Me and the National Anthem at Wembley, but I’m extra excited this year about performing before the Women’s and Men’s Finals,” she said.

“The development of Women’s and Girls’ Rugby League over the last few years has been amazing. I’ve been honoured to be part of that, singing before the Women’s Challenge Cup Final, the Women’s Grand Final and England internationals at some great venues.

“But to have the chance to be involved in this first Women’s Final at Wembley is a real thrill.

“They are such amazing players and really deserve the chance to play on the great stage of Wembley.”

Lynne Kenning, who has also become a popular addition to recent Rugby League events, will sing the National Anthem before the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup Final between Batley Bulldogs and Halifax Panthers.

Wembley spectators will also be able to enjoy a range of other entertainment, combining the tradition of Challenge Cup Finals Day with some more recent additions.

The day kicks off at 10.10am with the inspiresport Champion Schools Final for Year 7 Boys, which will this year be a preview of the Men’s Final as Bedford High School of Leigh take on Archbishop Sentamu Academy from East Hull – in the Steven Mullaney Memorial Match, named after the youngster who played for Wakefield Schools in this traditional Wembley curtain-raiser before he was killed in a traffic accident the following year.

Alex Simmons, who was a big hit in a DJ set at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium Cup Final last year, is returning as the in-stadium DJ – as well as being part of the Rugby Rox Park event at Boxpark outside on Wembley Way.

More traditionally, a military brass band will be performing on the pitch before the Women’s and Men’s Finals, as well as during Abide with Me and the National Anthem.

There will be a pitch parade between the Women’s and Men’s Finals, at around 2.10pm, featuring 750 youngsters who have played in the inspiresport Champion Schools teams and the Primary RL Festival being staged at The Hive in Barnet on the morning of Cup Finals Day.

Then 500 youth dancers from Join the Momentum will perform at half-time in the Men’s Final.

The Player of the Match in the first Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup Final to be played at Wembley will be selected by Andrea Dobson and Kyle Amor, who will be the expert summarisers alongside Sharon Shortle on the commentary team for the live coverage on BBC2.

The winner of the Lance Todd Trophy as Man of the Match in the Betfred Challenge Cup Final will be selected as ever by members of the Rugby League Writers and Broadcasters Association in attendance at the match.

And the winner of the Ray French Award as Man of the Match in the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup Final will be decided by a vote of Our League members, with the match being shown live, exclusive and free on the sport’s Our League web and app.