Salford Red Devils owner Dr Marwan Koukash has said he is targeting some of rugby union’s biggest names in a cross-code raid designed to avenge Sam Burgess’ move to Bath at the end of the season.
The 56-year-old claims to have British Lions players on his radar, which is commendable and would certainly put Rugby League on the map, but how many Lions players actually have what it takes to succeed in our sport?
Yes, rugby union is bigger both in terms of participation and spectating in the UK, but there is no real reason for that other than the north-south divide. League is faster, more physically demanding, and much more exciting. Players need to be speedy, fit, skilful and strong. Although I love union, it lacks compared to League in every department other than kicking and scrummaging.
That’s the reason why so many Rugby League players go on to make successes of themselves in union, while no-one of note in the last 20 years has switched the opposite way and made an impact.
Andy Powell – a former British Lion and Wales star – is a prime example. He joined Wigan last year and has publicly struggled to both learn the game and get fit enough for it. Sam Burgess, who is set to join Bath RUFC at the end of this year, will not have that problem.
Looking through the victorious British Lions squad of 2013, I see very few players that could avoid a Powell-like switch. Especially in the forward pack, which is generally too heavy, slow and unfit to handle even a short spell on a Rugby League field. There are a couple that stick out, though. Here are five I’d consider pursuing if I were Marwan Koukash.
Tom Croft, 28, flanker
England, British Lions, Leicester Tigers
One of only a couple of forwards with enough fitness and speed to thrive in Rugby League. Croft measures 6ft 6in and weighs 105kg but is usually among the quickest players on the pitch.
RL position: Could make a superb second-rower.
Dan Lydiate, 26, flanker
Wales, British Lions, Racing Metro
The only other forward to make the list, Lydiate is recognised as one of the greatest exponents of defence in the game. Definitely has what it takes physically and was born in Salford so could relish a return to his home town.
RL position: Could be a lethal back-rower.
George North, 21, winger
Wales, British Lions, Northampton Saints
Possibly has the best chance of all. Possesses speed and strength in abundance and is still very young so could learn quickly. There are only a few positions he couldn’t play.
RL position: Would be comfortable as a full-back, wing, centre, second-row, and loose forward.
Jamie Roberts, 27, centre
Wales, British Lions, Cardiff Blues
This is the man many are tipping Sam Burgess to emulate. He loves to take the ball in and regularly breaks tackles. He can defend, too, and is a qualified doctor, which will give him something in common with Koukash.
RL position: Utility forward.
Owen Farrell, 22, fly-half
England, British Lions, Saracens
Very similar to father Andy physically, if not a touch lighter. Has great vision, a brilliant kicking game and sharp passing. Would be extremely useful in the halves and a superb goal kicker.
RL position: Stand-off.
Who nearly made the cut?
Jonathan Davies (Wales), is another strong-running centre; Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), can kick with the best of them and would make a good full-back; Jamie Heaslip (Ireland) has a desire to take the ball in and could fit into a Rugby League pack nicely; Manu Tuilagi (England) knows how to break the first line of defence.
Who do you think would be the best British Lions player Salford could sign? Let us know by commenting below. And watch the below video to see all these players in action.
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