Wales head coach John Kear says that Regan Grace’s retention as a rugby league player is key to the success of the sport in the coming years.
St Helens man Grace is out of contract at the end of this season. The 25-year-old has had strong interest from rugby union in recent weeks and could switch codes come next year.
Club boss Kristian Woolf is confident of extending the winger’s contract, music to international chief Kear’s ears.
“He is a star man. He is to St Helens what a Jai Field or a Bevan French is to Wigan. Regan is one of those players that puts bums on seats and then gets them off their seats too,” said Kear, who is also the new head coach at Championship outfit Widnes.
“He is an exciting player and we do need to keep him in this code. I hope St Helens achieve that, not just for Wales Rugby League but for Super League and the game in general.”
Regan’s Return Pending
Port Talbot-born Grace will play no part in this weekend’s mid-season international against France in Albi.
He is currently recovering from an injury lay-off which has kept him out of club action for a number of weeks.
Kear added, “Regan has played once in a long, long time. He has never been injured before, so it has been difficult for him at this point in time where he has picked up two injuries in quick succession.
“It looked as though he was coming back after the first injury and then he re-injured himself, so it has been pretty difficult for Regan. I think he is sensitive about getting back to regular rugby league.
“He is a star man with Saints, and they want to look after him as well, which I understand. You’ve got to show a degree of empathy with selection and that’s what we’ve tried to do with Regan. Hopefully it’ll pay us back in the long run.
“I’m just hoping St Helens re-sign him so that he is available for us in the World Cup.”
Since making his international debut in 2015, Grace has three tries in six matches. Making his debut for Saints a year later, he currently has 84 tries in 133 outings. He has won three Grand Finals on the spin as well as last year’s Challenge Cup.
Providing he is involved at the World Cup, Grace and Wales will face a group containing Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea, and Tonga.