4 Stars of Rugby League Who Could Succeed in Union Unlike Sam Burgess

Danny Coyle@dannyjpcoyleFeatured ColumnistNovember 18, 2015

4 Stars of Rugby League Who Could Succeed in Union Unlike Sam Burgess

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    David Rogers/Getty Images

    In light of the speed with which Sam Burgess disappeared back from whence he came, the next scout brave enough to knock on his coach's door and suggest he signs another rugby league convert may want to do so wearing full body armour.

    Burgess decided not to stick it out in the 15-man code after half a season with Bath and an unsuccessful World Cup with England.

    So should his expensive experiment deter rugby union from delving into the 13-a-side game for any more potential gems?

    They haven't all been duff, let's not forget. Jason Robinson set a particularly high watermark when he came from league, and Burgess' former Bath colleague Kyle Eastmond has also spent time learning and improving as a union player.

    The World Cup-winners' medals owned by Brad Thorn and Sonny Bill Williams of New Zealand tell their own tales.

    So let's not give up on the power of conversion just yet. For every Burgess or Benji Marshall, there may just be the odd Billy Whizz.

    Here are four more possibles.

1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

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    Samoan-born Tuivasa-Sheck has already represented New Zealand in union at schoolboy level before opting for the 13-man version.

    He was a star for the Sydney Roosters, helping them to a National Rugby League title in 2013, and he will join the New Zealand Warriors in the 2016 NRL season.

    With a wicked sidestep and sharp turn of pace, it is easy to see the 22-year-old returning to his roots to make a world-class wing or full-back.

    The All Blacks are sufficiently blessed not to go chasing players from the other code, but were he to show an interest, Steve Hansen and his fellow coaches will be shrewd enough to consider what he could bring to the current squad.

2. Zak Hardaker

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    Super League's 2015 Man of Steel Zak Hardaker was a key figure in Leeds Rhinos' glorious season and also starred for England in their recent series win over New Zealand.

    The 24-year-old full-back has also been named on the shortlist for the world's best player this year, per Sky Sports.

    But his chequered off-field record may deter some in union from tempting him to the other side.

    Hardaker was in trouble earlier this year after a incident involving a student in Leeds, per Aaron Bower of the Guardian, and he has previously been dropped from the England squad for misconduct and suspended after being found guilty of making homophobic comments.

    The careers of Dylan Hartley, Manu Tuilagi and Danny Cipriani have all suffered as a result of disciplinary issues, yet there is no denying their value to their club sides.

    Hardaker's track record suggests he would need to impress quickly and keep his nose clean to earn his stripes as a union player.

3. Kallum Watkins

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    Kallum Watkins was described by Leeds Rhinos team-mate Jamie Peacock as potentially the best British centre in rugby league history, per BBC Sport's Super League Show.

    The 24-year-old scored 15 tries in the 2015 Super League season and, undoubtedly, has the raw materials to start life on the wing in union, while it is not out of the question that he could make a quality No. 13.

    Indeed, the Telegraph's Tanya Aldred questioned in the summer whether Watkins should have been the player England's union bosses went after rather than Sam Burgess.

    She wrote:

    Bath and England plumped for the walking colossus, the 6ft 5in 18st tough guy, the man who played on in the 2014 NRL Grand Final after sustaining a fractured eye socket and a broken cheekbone in the first minute.

    But should they have shown more imagination? Should they have been moved by nimbleness not force? Should Watkins have been the one?

    Watkins would take some prising away from Leeds, having signed a new deal with the Yorkshire side last year, per BBC Sport, but his guile and footwork certainly chime with the lack of such qualities in England's back line once Jonathan Joseph was injured during the recent World Cup.

4. George Burgess

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    What is it they say? If at first you don't succeed, try again?

    Maybe union could be tempted to go back into the impressive Burgess gene pool to see if one brother can succeed where the first gave up.

    Were that to be the case, George Burgess, three years younger than brother Sam, would be the one to go for.

    The 23-year-old hinted after Sam made the switch that following suit wouldn't be out of the question, per Michael Chammas of the Sydney Morning Herald

    And it was reported by the Courier Mail (h/t ZeroTackle.com) that George was the possible subject of a bid from Gloucester last year.

    With his contract up in 2016 at South Sydney, if he hasn't heard too many horror stories from his big brother, perhaps we could see another chapter in the Burgess family's cross-code story.


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