Whilst speculation is normally rife about which rugby league players are next set to jump from the 13-man code to rugby union, there has been a twist this week, with one big-name player linked with a move in the opposite direction.
League Weekly, a weekly rugby league newspaper in the UK, has reported that Toronto Wolfpack, who play in the second tier of the English league structure, are set to sign one of the biggest names in union.
David Argyle, who owns the Canadian club, stated that “before the Rugby Union World Cup in Japan later this year, we will have one of the top five rugby players in the world [coming here].”
That has understandably stoked speculation, with many suggesting that it could be Blues and New Zealand centre Sonny Bill Williams heading to the Ontario-based club. Given Argyle’s comments, there are few other options.
Israel Folau has experience in both codes but has recently signed a new long-term contract at the Waratahs, whilst the grandiose statement of the signing being a “top five” rugby player rules out a number of other players who have played both codes. With Williams in a contract year and already the subject of plenty of speculation that this would be his last season in union, he seems to fit the bill well.
A billionaire who has made his money in the mining industry, Argyle has aggressively pursued the Super League, England’s top tier league competition, since the Wolfpack were founded in 2016. They have enjoyed plenty of success since they were introduced into the English divisions in 2017, winning League One at the first time of asking and then finishing top of the log in the Championship in 2018. They were only denied promotion to Super League this season due to defeat to London Broncos in the Million Pound Game last year.
Coached by former Leeds Rhinos supremo Brian McDermott, Toronto has already attracted St Helens legend Jon Wilkin across the Atlantic and if they were able to bring in Williams after the RWC, it would represent their biggest coup yet.
They are not the only side attempting to lure players away from union, either, with Warrington Wolves having confirmed the signing of Luther Burrell from Northampton Saints this week, with the centre set to head north at the end of the 2018/19 Gallagher Premiership season.
Watch: Sonny Bill Williams at his creative best for the Blues
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.