Kyle (B) Eastmond has received a lot of attention recently and is set up to be one of the best converts from League to Union the rugby world has ever seen. This got us thinking, over the years we’ve seen a rather large number of rugby league players coming over to union – how well do these players fare?
Some of these converted players have gone down in history for being world-class players, among them the best were undoubtedly:
Jason Robinson – from five league titles and three challenge cups to claiming Premiership titles and securing his place on the Lions tour, Jason Robinson was phenomenal at any variation of the game. His lightening quick acceleration, safe hands and hard-hitting tackles make him brilliant in League, but even better in Union!
Brian Carney – arguably one of the only world-class Irish Rugby League players, his time playing league was short-lived, as he made the switch to union after just one season. His extremely quick pace made for some amazing breaks, which we saw in his first test debut with the Ireland squad with his interception try. Carney made a few more changes in his career and went on to play Sevens before going back to League again – he really is a man of many talents.
Chris Ashton – love him or hate him, Chris Ashton is a fantastic player who managed to employ some staggering League-type runs into Union. His amazing supportive running and clever line choice awarded him with a whole heap of tries on both a club and international level. His 2014 season may not have been at his typical high standards and he may not have been picked for England, but you can’t deny his sporting prowess.
Israel Folau – different genres of rugby don’t seem to affect Folau at all, starting off as a shining star playing League before moving to Aussie Rules Football and then seamlessly switching over to Rugby Union. Regardless of what discipline Folau is playing, he seems to thrive with tries and big hits being put in all over the place.
Brad Thorn – very few forwards ever make the change from League to Union, which is what makes Brad Thorn really special. Not only did he make the change, but he did it in serious style putting in massive League-style hits wherever possible and offering amazing support to runners. Thorn is well established as one of the hardest men in the game and this dedication has ensured that he always delivers a top-level performance.
Not every convert to Rugby Union has been a winner, some of the players should probably never have made the transition. Some of the shameful few include:
Andy Farrell – while he may be England’s backs coach now, his stint playing Union was terrible when compared to his time in League. As a league player he won five championship titles, four Challenge Cups and two Golden Boots, but with union he only achieve 8 caps with England – not particularly good going for such a massive League star.
Shontayne Hape – starting off as a New Zealand League player, Hape had a lot of potential even winning the prestigious Rookie of the Year Award and went on to help the Bradford Bulls win the Super League and the World Club Challenge with the Bradford Bulls. His step into Union received a lot of criticism and after just 14 appearances for England he was replaced by Tuilagi.
Henry Paul – if there was one player who should never have gone to Union it would be Henry Paul. His appearance for the national side were shocking. As a League player he helped several of his clubs achieve promotion and greater success, but only managed a handful of caps for England and quickly made the move back to League.
Benji Marshall – Benji is a fantastic league player who has a handful of accomplishments to his name, however after one season playing Rugby Union was more than enough for him. There wasn’t his usual flare and after only making six appearances he decided to go back to League – definitely a smart decision on his part!
Are there more to come? Of course! Players are always making the change from League to Union and vice versa, which means that we are more than likely to see some of these rising stars trying their hand in the different codes.