Smith warns Burgess over code switch

Wakefield threequarter Lee Smith has urged caution for players who are considering swapping one code of rugby for another.

The issue of code jumping has been in the news again recently, with reports from Australia suggesting that Sam Burgess could be considering a move to rugby union.

While a supposed £1 million offer from rugby union has supposedly been tabled, with Bath RUFC suggested as a possible destination, there has been no confirmation of interest from the Burgess camp.

Former Wales and British Lions back rower Andy Powell also joined Wigan from the other code last year, while Tom Biggs is waiting to make his move to Hull FC from Bath, once the stipulations regarding the 6 Nations allows him to do so.

Smith endured a pretty miserable time with Wasps during the 2009/10 season, playing only one first-team game in the 15-man code.

He feels that players who are contemplating switching should make sure that they are properly prepared for the demands that they are likely to face.

“I think there is only a certain type of player who can swap,” Smith told Love Rugby League.

“Especially for forwards. The game is totally different as a forward in rugby union.

“With the backs, there’s not too much difference really, you have to have speed, you have to have skill and a decent kicking game, to play either rugby league or rugby union.

“I watch a lot of rugby union. I enjoy the game, and enjoy watching it. 

“They’re two totally different games, though. Tackling, body position, forward play, everything.”

Smith does feel that rugby union is adapting many of the tactical structures used in the 13-man code, though.

“I think they’re getting to a stage in rugby union where they’re playing a lot like league,” Smith added. 

“I watched Kyle Eastmond at Bath, and he seemed to fill in from inside centre into a rugby league halfback position. I could see him falling back into his Saints days, and making so much space for people.

“That’s the way forward for them. On the flipside, you look at Tom Biggs, though.

“I know Tom. He’s a very quick player, very elusive. I think it’s good for him to come back home to Hull.

“Wigan have got Andy Powell too, it’s good to see him given a chance. He’s at a good club too, a club which will teach him the game properly.

“But it’s going to take time, like it would have done with me.”

As for his own short time in rugby union, Smith insists that he has no regrets, though he admits that he might have persisted with the other code, had the circumstances been different.

“Do I regret it? No. I don’t see it as a mistake,” he explained.

“It wasn’t the fact that I was homesick, because I enjoyed London. It was just the fact that I was a young kid, coming off the back of playing in three Grand Finals and playing for England, and then I had to start again in a different code.

“It was hard going and playing in front of 100 people for an A team game. As much as Shaun Edwards was very good with me, he was trying to get me games all over, and they wanted me more for the next season.

“They were trying to train me through, and when I look back I should probably have stuck it out. But I was a young kid and I wanted to play, so I went back to something I knew.

“It was an easy transition to come back, and at that stage, I was a kid who just wanted to play rugby.

“The reason I went to Wasps was because I’d been pretty successful in league. I’d won three finals, I’d played for England, I’d won a World Club Challenge. The only thing I hadn’t won was the Challenge Cup

“So when I went to union and I wasn’t playing, and I was watching Leeds on a weekly basis, then they wanted me back.

“They said, ‘This is a Monday, and you could be playing for us on Thursday. You can get straight back in again, we know you’re fit, and we know you can play.’

“So I played for them over the Easter period, and I was then back to normal.”

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