Although there have been plenty of controversies in rugby league recently, it’s still the rise of dual code players that causes the greatest amount of discussion. Whilst many rugby league fans would be baffled as to why their favourite players would choose to play rugby union, it’s clear that this is a trend that’s showing no signs of slowing down.
Whilst dual code playing has been around since the early 20th century, it’s only recently that it’s really taken off. Ever since rugby union became professional in the 1990s, there’s been plenty of rugby league stars like Jason Robinson who’ve been lured by the boost in salary and the prospect of playing on an international level.
Robinson was a real trend-setter for dual code playing as he became the first person to win the Guinness Premiership and Super League trophies. And his legendary try against Australia in the 2003 World Cup final ensured that many other players sought to follow his path.
It would have certainly been in the back of Sam Burgess’ mind last year as he joined England for their disastrous World Cup performance in 2015. But regardless of the wide range of reasons for the side’s failure, Burgess maintains that his heart was never really in playing rugby union rather than rugby league.
This is why it’s impossible to tell which players will make the switch successfully. And as Coral are already featuring the 2016 end of year series in their rugby odds, one dual code player who’ll be noticeably absent from the affairs is Chris Ashton.
The star made his name as full-back for Wigan Warriors, but soon switched to rugby union where his impressive try-scoring for Northampton Saints led him to move to Saracens. Ashton quickly became a real favourite as a result of his towering presence, and although he’s rumoured to be moving to Toulon as a result of a massive pay deal, he’ll always be remembered as a phenomenal dual code player.
And then consider the New Zealand star Sonny Bill Williams who not only became a dual code player in rugby, but also somehow found the time to defy the bookmakers by becoming an internationally renowned heavyweight boxer.
So although there’s been a few misguided efforts, it seems that some of our best rugby stars have shown themselves to be more adaptable than most.