WORLD famous rugby union referee Nigel Owens has said he would be 'honoured' to referee a charity match in aid of rugby-mad Skipton boy Luke Mortimer, who is recovering after being struck down with meningitis.

Luke, 7, a pupil at Water Street School, had to have both hands and his lower legs amputated after falling ill with the deadly condition before Christmas.

Mr Owens was contacted on social media by @ydalesbushcraft saying Skipton RFC was hoping to organise a charity match on February 29 in aid of Luke and asking the international referee how much it would cost for him to attend?

Mr Owens replied: "It would cost you nothing at all for me to referee the game for the young lad. It would be an honour to do so. Will DM you my contact to see if I can make it work."

Mr Owens, the most prominent referee in the sport, was most recently seen by rugby fans refereeing the World Cup semi-final between England and New Zealand in November.

The Welsh referee has been officiating at a high level since 2001 when he debuted in the European Challenge Cup season.

He is the world record holder for officiating most test matches, and has become a fan favourite around the world for his personality on the pitch.

Simon Smith, secretary of Skipton RFC said the overwhelmed with the support everyone had shown and said they hoped Nigel Owens would be free that day of the charity match.

"He has offered his services as long as that date is free for him but we are still waiting for it to be confirmed.

"It would be fantastic to have a professional such as himself to come along and support us

The local community has rallied round to help the Mortimer family and shown overwhelming support.

In just a matter of days over £67,000 was raised on a JustGiving fundraising page organised by Skipton RFC member John Firth and the figure is still growing.

Mr Firth highlighted the plight of Luke who enjoyed playing rugby at the club with his older brother, Harry.

The brothers' dad, Adam, coaches many age grade youngsters at the club while mum, Christine, runs a children's rugby kit recycling stall.

Both Adam and Christine are currently holding vigil at Luke's hospital bedside while Harry is being looked after by grandparents.

Luke fell ill on December 13 and was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis, the most dangerous strain of the disease.

He was initially taken to Airedale Hospital but was transferred to Sheffield Children's Hospital by the Embrace team, a mobile ambulance unit who transport seriously ill children across Yorkshire.

Luke was placed in an induced coma and was dependent on a ventilator and dialysis machine.

Brian Brocksom, a retired police officer who is organising a series of fundraising events for Luke, said: "The rugby community is very generous in times like this.

"Their life has been turned upside down. Hopefully the money will mean Luke can go home to a safe and enjoyable environment.

"Luke and Harry have grown up at the club, as Adam and Christine have been involved for years before they were born.

"They've been coming here since they were babies and the family are part of the make-up of the club.

"At the moment there is no indication of when Luke can come home - the major surgery is over but he may have to have skin grafts.

"There has been enormous support for the appeal. The ball started rolling more quickly than I ever imagined and I have been overwhelmed."

Family friend Sera Brook, who runs the Albion pub, in the town's Otley Street, said the pub was looking at different ways to raise money to help.

"Straightaway we started putting money from tea and coffee sales into a bucket and the girls were putting their tips in there too.

"I've known Adam since I was six. They are a terrific family and this news is tragic. We just want to try and help in any way we can.

"Skipton rugby club held a match and a raffle and straight away raised over £1,200. People just want to help."

Pendle Borough Councillor Jenny Purcell has offered for people to give donations in lieu of gifts for a 'big birthday' she has coming up soon and will give the money to the fundraiser.

Messages have been left on the club's Facebook page from other rugby clubs around the district and throughout the country, with many saying they will 'put on their thinking caps' and come up with some money-raising ideas to support the fund.

Video message have been left by clubs including Cornish Pirates and Penryn RFC and England Rugby has shared the campaign on their official Twitter page which has over one million followers.

Messages of support and encouragement have been left on the site with offers of fundraising support and help.

Writing under the hashtag #ThisisLuke, the family said on Sunday: "Just to say a massive thank you to everyone.

"We have been in the 'hospital bubble' for quite a while and for a while lost touch with the

outside world.

"It has given the whole family a massive boost to feel the support and generosity of the local and rugby community and now people and communities from around the UK and the world.

"Be it words of support, comfort or inspiration, a donation be it small, the children that are donating pocket money, or large from clubs and businesses. To know we are loved and supported by so many helps us more than you can imagine

"Thank you all for everything you are doing. With our deepest gratitude, love: Adam, Christine, Harry, Luke, Grandma, Grandad, Granny, Grandpa, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, the Norwegian, Canadian and American family."

Anyone wishing to donate to the JustGiving fundraising page can do so at: