Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries confused the two rugby codes during a speech at a Rugby World Cup event in St Helens on Thursday.
Dorries thought Jonny Wilkinson’s 2003 winning drop-goal for England against Australia in the Rugby World Cup final was in rugby league.
“I’ve always liked the idea of rugby league,” Dorries said in his speech.
“My long-time memory is that drop-goal from 2003.”
She added: “We were drinking Bloody Marys back then. Wow what a time that was.”
She later addressed her mistake on Twitter.
“Like Jason Robinson, I may have changed the code in my speech”, she wrote.
“The league and the union have a rich heritage in the UK. Obviously I’ve followed rugby league a lot less in my life, but I can’t wait to see England (and all the home nations ) in the RL World Cup this fall.”
League and rugby union have separate rules, point systems and team sizes – 15 players in a union team and 13 in a league team.
Dorries had spoken at the launch of an interim report on the World Cup social impact programme, which invests £25million in communities across England.
Rugby League World Cup chief executive Jon Dutton said the Secretary of State had ‘clearly made a mistake’ but added he was delighted she was there to support the launch of the report.
“The sport is 127 years old but needs a tournament like this to get more exposure. We want more people to be educated about what wonderful sports rugby league is – and also what is wonderful sporting rugby union,” he said.
“We had a conversation and we can’t wait for her to come to the tournament.”
Billy Vaughan, vice-chairman of rugby league club Portico Vine in St Helens where the event took place, said: “I thought it was comedic.
“No prejudice to her, someone is writing this speech for her, they just need to do their research. It’s kind of disrespectful to the different codes and there’s a big difference in the codes.”