One man has dominated the recent rugby news and that man is Sam Burgess. The former Bradford Bulls star and current South Sydney Rabbitohs player has agreed to switch codes and join Bath, back in his native England but in the alien sport of rugby union.
Although Burgess has all the tools needed to become a huge player in rugby union, there are some players who have been wholly underwhelming after crossing codes.
Iestyn Harris made his mark on the league with an array of brilliant performances for Leeds Rhinos. Whilst with the Rhinos, bet365’s second favourites for Super League success this season, Harris racked up 1455 points in 139 games. The superb goal-kicker eventually turned the heads of the Welsh RFU, who shelled out £1.5million to make him change codes in 2001. Harris struggled with his tactical kicking, which is a necessity for any good fly-half in rugby union, and eventually wound up playing inside centre. Three years and 25 Wales caps later he moved back to rugby league, making him one of the costliest mistakes in union history.
Tongan-born Vainikolo was brilliant in his five year spell at Bradford Bulls, amassing an incredible 598 points in 152 appearances. Winning two Super Leagues, one Challenge Cup and three World Club Challenge titles, he really was a player in his prime in the rugby league. His switch to rugby union side Gloucester got off to the best possible start, the player scoring five tries on his debut against Leeds. He picked up four caps with England in the 2008 Six Nations but following the departure of then coach Brian Ashton he did not play for England again. After five underwhelming years with Gloucester, which saw the player go to court on Grievous Bodily Harm charges, he left for France, where he now plays in the second division. Vainikolo’s time in rugby union could not reach the heights he had reached with the Bulls.
The Kiwi was fantastic with the Bulls, scoring an incredible 83 tries in 131 games as well as earning 14 caps for New Zealand. Bath believed that the player’s quick feet and handling would make the switch a seamless one, but internationally Hape never cut the mustard, picking up just 13 caps for England.
Another Kiwi, Paul absolutely smashed the rugby league with Wigan Warriors and Bradford Bulls, amassing 550 points in 147 appearances for the Warriors and a monumental 960 points in 100 appearances. A gifted runner and goal-kicker, Paul made the switch to Union in 2001 to much excitement of the British media, who thought he would be a revelation in the national side. Domestically with Gloucester he was sound but for England he was non-existent. After winning his first cap in 2002 against France, he appeared sporadically for England, playing just another five times for his adopted country. After five years he moved back to rugby league.
These players all received a lot of hype and failed to live up to it. Hopefully this will not happen to Burgess, who is not only a brilliant player but a good bloke as well.