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Wolfpack targeting Tuilagi over Mitchell?

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Why Manu Tuilagi is more likely to join Sonny Bill Williams at Toronto Wolfpack than NRL star Latrell Mitchell

Speculation has been rife about the future of out-of-favour NRL star Latrell Mitchell in recent weeks, who has still not committed to a club beyond 2020 after failed negotiations with the Sydney Roosters, Wests Tigers and North Queensland Cowboys.

The 22-year-old Sydney centre, who has won two NRL titles, played four times at State of Origin level for New South Wales and has claimed four tests for the Kangaroos, is a prodigious rugby league talent, but his wavering interest in Australia’s premier competition amid concerns regarding his attitude has forced him to look elsewhere for further career opportunities.

That led to the revelation that an enquiry of interest was made by Mitchell’s representatives to Rugby Australia about the possibility of a cross-code switch to rugby union.

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However, RA officials ruled out that move due to the timings of Dave Rennie’s inauguration as Wallabies head coach, the prioritised re-signings of other key players, and the impending $14 million legal battle with Israel Folau.

Now it seems that the Gold Coast Titans loom as the most likely destination for Mitchell in the NRL, with the youngster set to embark on a tour of club facilities in Queensland this week.

That hasn’t eliminated the prospect of a move outside of Australian rugby league, though, as it has emerged that the Toronto Wolfpack have been presented with the chance to capture Mitchell’s signature, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Adding Mitchell to the Wolfpack’s roster would strongly complement the acquisition of former All Blacks superstar Sonny Bill Williams, who last month signed a two-year deal with the Canadian club worth $10 million.

The duo would make Toronto strong contenders to take out the English Super League title in their debut season in the competition, but a report from NRL.com has unveiled why England rugby union midfielder Manu Tuilagi may be a more tantalising prospect for the Wolfpack.

Super League clubs are granted just five slots in their squads for overseas players, and with Toronto having already reached their cap, the recruitment of Mitchell would exceed that limit.

However, NRL.com understands that the Wolfpack are looking for confirmation from the Rugby Football League that the Samoan-born Tuilagi, who has played 40 times for England since moving there as a teenager in 2004, would not impact their quota of foreigners.

If he qualifies as a domestic player, the Wolfpack would be able to fit him into their squad at a discounted rate, as a player who has not previously played rugby league does not count against the salary cap in their first season in the Super League, while only 50 percent of his contract is included in their second season.

Whether the Wolfpack can buy Tuilagi out of his new two-year deal with the Leicester Tigers is another question, but the slashed salary cap rates would alleviate any financial issues that could present themselves with luring such a prominent rugby figure to North America, which is something Mitchell would face if he is pursued by Toronto.

As one of two marquee signings already made by Toronto, Williams’ earnings are exempt from the £2.1 million Super League salary cap.

The other marquee signing is Samoan centre Ricky Leutele, who is earning reportedly equal to AU$800,000 (£422,000) per season – the same figure that Mitchell rejected when it was offered to him by the Roosters last month.

If Mitchell were to be signed by the Wolfpack, either his or Leutele’s full contract would need to be included in the salary cap as there isn’t enough room in the squad for three marquee players.

That would subsequently take a large chunk out of the Wolfpack’s salary cap, making a potential move to Canada less attractive for the Taree native.

With this many obstacles restricting Mitchell from moving abroad to resume his career in the northern hemisphere, it seems much more plausible to suggest that Tuilagi could follow in the footsteps of Williams in becoming the second significant cross-code transfer heading to Toronto.

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Why Manu Tuilagi is more likely to join Sonny Bill Williams at Toronto Wolfpack than NRL star Latrell Mitchell