A dream XIII of cross-code rugby stars

Zach Holland

It takes a special kind of player to be able to make the switch between rugby league and rugby union.

We’ve put together a squad based on some of the most noteworthy players to switch codes over the years.

1: Jonathan Davies

The former Wales international may have not been the biggest of figures in terms of size but his creativity, speed, flair and goal kicking ability were more than enough to see him be successful in both codes.

Between 1982-89, Davies spent time in Union with the likes of Neath and Llanelli as well as being a star performer for the Welsh national side. By 1989, he took his talents to rugby league and was an instant success with a dominant Widnes side that won their third straight RFL Championship that season. By 1993, he moved to Warrington where he claimed the Man of Steel award a year later in 1994.

2: Jason Robinson

Over the years, dominant wingers such as Lesley Vainikolo, Wendell Sailor and Chris Ashton have all made that jump.

But again, it comes down to a player who was dazzling to watch in both and that was Robinson. The electric winger was an integral player on Wigan’s backline during the mid to late 1990s where he went on to claim the Harry Sunderland Trophy for his man of the match performance in the 1998 Super League Grand Final as well as the Lance Todd trophy during the 1995 Challenge Cup Final. After moving to rugby union, he went on to further impress with Bath and Sale before scoring a try in England’s World Cup final victory over Australia in 2003.

3: Israel Folau

When it comes to being able to make an impact in both codes, there has not been many who made the transition better than Folau.

Between 2007-10, he starred for Melbourne and Brisbane after scoring 73 tries in 91 appearances. After two years in Aussie rules, Folau made the jump to union where he was just as dominant, scoring 60 tries in 96 appearances for the NSW Waratahs as well as being a constant presence for the Australian national team.

4: Shontayne Hape

During the early to mid-2000s, Hape formed one of the most fearsome partnerships in the game alongside Lesley Vainikolo at Bradford.

The duo proved to be near unstoppable at their absolute best, with the former showing his great ball running and ball playing qualities in the centre position while being just as effective defensively. After winning two Super League titles and a Challenge Cup with the Bulls, he made the move to union in 2008 with Bath and over the next four years he was able to adjust rather well and despite injuries issues he was even able to go on and make 13 appearances for England at international level.

5: Lote Tuqiri

Between 1999-02, Tuqiri’s size and strength on the wing played a huge factor for Brisbane as he went on to score 56 tries in 99 appearances for the Broncos and was one of their star performers during their 2000 NRL title winning season.

In 2003, he made a high profile move to union when he signed for the NSW Waratahs and whilst there, he went on to star again and even featured in Australia’s 2003 and 2007 World Cup squads. In 2010, Tuqiri made a return to rugby league with Wests Tigers before moving to South Sydney in 2014 where he won a second NRL title in his last ever season.

6: Henry Paul

Between 1993-01, the older Paul brother was one of the most skilful and efficient points scorers in rugby league.

During his spells with Wigan and Bradford, he was one of the best on the field with his versatility, silky ball handling and goal kicking ability being his standout traits. By 2001, he was tempted away to rugby union after signing with Gloucester. After experimenting at full-back and fly-half, he settled into the centre position and from there he went onto win 2002 Premiership and 2003 Powergen Cup with Gloucester on top of the club’s season ticket holder Player of the Year award in 2004.

7: Stephen Myler

The Widnes-born playmaker grew up with rugby league in his veins as his father and uncle both played for the club throughout their career while his great uncle is Frank Myler – a former Great Britain captain who led the Lions to a test series win in Australia back in 1970.

After starting his career with St Helens, he went on to have steady spells with Widnes and Salford before moving to rugby union with Northampton Saints in 2006. From there, he went onto become one the most consistent goal kickers and players in the league and tallied over 2,000 points.

8: Sam Burgess

Despite struggles to adapt in union and being thrusted into the international scene prematurely, it is still hard to ignore the natural talent and fearlessness this man possessed throughout his career.

In his 14-year career, Burgess at his best was a force to be reckoned and was certainly never one to a shy away from the centre of the action. Even with issues in the 15-a-side game, he still showed glimpses of exactly what he could bring and it would have been interesting to see how he developed if given more time. If it was with the ball in his hand or even defensively, there was always a moment to saviour when it came to the former Great Britain and England international.

9: Craig Gower

The former playmaker is probably more renowned for his time with Penrith in rugby league where between 1996-07, he became one of the most solid players in league, representative and international level, winning the 2003 NRL title as well as the 2000 Dally M Hooker of The Year whilst with the Panthers.

In 2008, he decided to take his talents to the 15-a-side format after signing with French club Aviron Bayonnais and whilst there he was even able to represent Italy due to his grandfather being of Italian descent.

10: Apollo Perelini

The former barnstorming front-rower started life out in rugby union with the likes of Auckland and North Harbour in New Zealand.

By 1994, he made the switch over to the rugby league and signed for St Helens and whilst there he became one of the most dominant props of the late 1990s with his hard tackling and ball running. In his seven years with Saints, he went on to claim three Super League titles and two Challenge Cups before ending his career back in rugby union with Sale Sharks.

11: Sonny Bill Williams

Well you cannot talk about cross-code stars without talking about this man. In terms of both formats, there is not a bigger name than Sonny Bill himself.

The skilful yet hard running second-rower starred for Canterbury and Sydney during his time in the NRL, winning two NRL titles and a heap of individual awards. In two separate spells in rugby union, Williams was just as much of a success and even won two Rugby Union World Cups with New Zealand. To this day, he remains the biggest name in both formats of the game.

12: Brad Thorn

A former dual-code international whose hard work and sheer determination saw him become a constant presence for Brisbane in two separate rugby league spells.

Overall, he played 200 games and scored 32 tries for the Broncos as well as winning four Premiership titles. The towering back-rower also had two stints in rugby union and during his time in union, his biggest successes came with the Crusaders and Leinster on top of winning the 2011 Rugby Union World Cup with the All Blacks.

13: Andy Farrell

Between 1991-04, Farrell became one of the great British rugby league points scorers during his time with Wigan and was a huge part of the Warriors’ trophy laden run throughout the late mid to late 90s.

In his 13-year rugby league career, he went on to win six league titles, four challenge cups, two Man of Steel awards and the Golden Boot. Even though his rugby union career was not as successful, he still went on to have a steady stint with Saracens before going to forge a great coaching career in his adopted code.

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