The big news in Rugby League this week surrounds Wigan Warriors, as they have secured the services of former star Joel Tomkins – in a move that sees him return from Rugby Union to take up the 13-man code again.
Tomkins has prior experience of playing in the game, having spent the early part of his career with the Warriors before heading off to play RU with Saracens. However, he isn’t the only man who could potentially make the code switch and play Rugby League.
Here are five men we think could either realistically make the move, or could make a roaring success of becoming a Rugby League player by making a switch that doesn’t happen too often.
It’s amazing to think that Chris Ashton was just 20 years of age when he made the infamous leap from Rugby League to Rugby Union, signing for Northampton Saints back in 2007. Before he left, Ashton had earned a huge reputation as a flying winger with a real eye for the line – a reputation he has continued to build in the 15-man game. He’s made 38 appearances for England, but has fallen down the pecking order at international level somewhat, so may he feel the time is right for him to come back ‘home’ – like his Saracens teammate Tomkins?
Myler was another player who left for Rugby Union relatively young and, at the age of 29, may feel like he wants to spend the latter years of his career playing Rugby League once again. Myler was just 21 when he left Salford to go sign for Northampton – a club he has been at ever since. Eight years later, he has 226 appearances for the Saints to his name, and one cap for England. Still an incredibly talented half-back, you feel that if Myler ever signaled his intent return to RL, the clubs would be queuing up to take him on.
In a game where scoring tries are far from the norm, Israel Folau’s record in Rugby Union is sensational. 11 tries in 17 appearances for Australia is a stunning record, and he runs tries in with ease for club side NSW Waratahs, too. Before that, Folau had scored 37 in 39 for Brisbane, as well as a stack for first club Melbourne Storm. He recently said he missed State of Origin after seeing it on TV – so could one of the biggest talents in world rugby he lured back to where it all began?
Of all the players who crossed the great divide to go and play Rugby Union, Kyle Eastmond’s departure was perhaps felt more than most. He was developing a huge reputation during his early years at St Helens, and was quickly touted as a player that was destined to star for England in RL. When he left for Bath in 2011, his career started slowly, but things have started to pick up recently, and he is currently on tour with England in New Zealand. It seems unlikely that Eastmond will be back any time soon, but at the age of 24, you feel he will eventually return one day.
The inclusion of Courtney Lawes is a real curveball on this list, but of all the top English Rugby Union talent, Lawes stands out as a player that could more than cut it in the 13-man code. Lawes is a real specimen, and is a strong-running, skillful back-rower that seems to have it all. He has a superb offload in his game, and has the speed and vision required to cut it at the top level in Rugby League. If he ever did make the move – admittedly, it is highly unlikely – it would send shudders throughout the world of rugby.