FORMER Keighley Cougars player Phil Stephenson had a special scrum with England’s rugby league heroes in Australia.

Phil, who has motor neurone disease, and his family were given the VIP treatment when they met up Down Under with star player Sam Burgess.

The meeting was particularly emotional because Sam’s late father Mark, also a former international player, had motor neurone disease.

Phil’s family, including his brother Andy, a fellow Cougars veteran, joined the England squad during a training session at a stadium in Australia.

The England team is playing in the Rugby League World Cup, which is being held in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea between October 27 and December 2.

Karen later said: “It was brilliant to meet Sam Burgess and the rest of the England squad. It was an experience we will cherish always.”

England Rugby League this week tweeted a video of the meeting, which attracted warm messages from Phil’s former Cougars teammates and people whose loved ones had been affected by motor neurone disease.

Adam Mitchell, now head of strength and conditioning for Dewsbury Rams, tweeted: “I grew up and played with Stevo @Cougarmania, what an inspirational bloke! The guy is a champion.”

Another Cougars comrade, Jonny Wainhouse, wrote: “Nice touch from everyone involved getting Big Phil over to Australia. Top bloke and a player I always trusted playing alongside.”

Jayne Halhead, whose father had motor neurone disease, joined in with: “Awareness is the key to finding a cure for this hideously cruel global killer.”

Phil was a long-serving prop who played 343 games for Keighley Cougars, particularly during the ‘Cougarmania’ days of the 1990s.

After his diagnosis with motor neurone disease was confirmed in June, Phil and wife Karen threw themselves into fundraising for the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA).

They took part in the Manchester Half Marathon as part of the 16-strong Team Stevo, in honour of Phil’s nickname, helping to raise £6500 to help others affected the illness.

The pair are organising a host of fundraising events for the charity, including competing in the Great North Run, walking the 124-mile length of Hadrian’s Wall, and running, walking, swimming and cycling 250 miles.

Visit the Facebook page Phil Stephenson's MND Fundraising Fight Back for further information.

Sam Burgess, born in 1988, currently plays for the South Sydney Rabbitohs in in Australia as well as for the England Rugby League squad.

One of four brothers who all play rugby league for international teams, Sam previously played for Bradford Bulls in the Super League.

His late father Mark played professionally for Nottingham City, Rochdale Hornets, Dewsbury and Hunslet.