x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Commercialisation helps crack codes in rugby

The transfer of talents has benefitted both rugby codes and it seems the two have found a balance after a century of rivalry.

It is funny how a sport can turn full circle once money becomes an issue.

For decades leading British rugby union players moved north from England's home counties and South Wales to join the paid ranks of rugby league. Many others were recruited from New Zealand and South Africa.

But when union went fully-professional in 1995 the tide turned completely. Now two of the stand-out rugby union three-quarters in England's Autumn International team, Chris Ashton and Shontayne Hape, are rugby league converts.

Jonny Wilkinson is usually credited with winning the 2003 Rugby Union World Cup for England but the player who struck fear into the opposition was Jason Robinson, a player who had won every honour in rugby league except, oddly, the Rugby League World Cup.

The best rugby coach in England is Shaun Edwards, who before joining London Wasps had an outstanding rugby league career with Wigan and Great Britain.

The transfer of talents has benefitted both codes.

Rugby union is now much quicker then it was 20 years ago while Super League is far more competitive than it has ever been. The salary cap in league leads to players moving on while clubs are encouraged to develop local talent, now for the good of both games.

It seems the two codes have found a balance after a century of rivalry. It is a pity football does not have a similar shadow.

sentwistle@thenational.ae