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Robinson and Burgess show how Sale cross-code signing Charnley can be success

Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | April 4, 2016

Crossing codes from Rugby League to Union was a hot topic throughout 2015 and – just when the furore over Sam Burgess’ bungled attempt at it has died down – another highly regarded player will soon be trying to make the transition.

Cross codes crossroads for Charnley and Sharks

Wigan Warriors back Josh Charnley is joining Aviva Premiership outfit Sale Sharks from the end of the current Super League campaign, seeking to follow the far more successful example of Rugby World Cup winner Jason Robinson.

Charnley, who covers centre, full back and playing on the wing, could be coming to a European Challenge Cup winning team, as Coral make Sale 5/1 shots to lift the trophy. This coup capture is a real boost for the Sharks as they go into a quarter-final clash with French Top 14 team Montpellier.

Wigan Warriors v Hull KR - First Utility Super League - DW Stadium

How can Charnley avoid becoming another Burgess? Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond intends to use his impending arrival in familiar areas of the field.

“A full skill-set”

“He’s got a bit of work to do on the conversion to playing rugby union,” Diamond admitted when asked about Charnley. “If he can work hard and make the transition, then we’ve got a gem on our hands.

“He’s got a full skill-set. We know he kicks goals, but we’ll not go down the path that other rugby union teams have done and try to play them in different positions.

“What happened with Sam was nothing short of a disgrace. He was played in one position by England and another by his club. You just can’t do that.”

Repeat of bad example Burgess must be avoided

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2015 - Pool A - England v Wales - Twickenham Stadium

Burgess was certainly fast-tracked into England’s union set-up, and made for an easy scapegoat when the Red Rose became the first Rugby World Cup host nation to bow out at the pool stage.

Stuart Lancaster took a chance on a convert just like Clive Woodward did on Robinson, and Diamond thinks Eddie Jones could do the same somewhere down the line.

“His ambition is to play at the highest level and his first obstacle is to get picked here,” the Sharks boss added of Charnley. “If he does that and consistently plays well, then I’m sure the new England set-up will look at players like him.”

Robinson a role model, but can Charnley compare?

Rugby Union - World cup match - England v Australia - Sydney

Like successful cross-codes convert Robinson, Charnley has distinguished himself in Cherry and White, but Sale’s chief would not be drawn into making comparisons between the two.

“We’re getting an established international finisher,” Diamond continued. “Nobody can compare anybody to Jason, but Josh comes with a fantastic tryscoring record and he’s an unbelievable goal kicker.”

Charnley continues to deliver for Wigan, who sit second in the Super League after nine games, with seven tries, five goals and two penalties this term. Warriors are 13/8 to be regular season winners, and better at 15/8 to be victorious in the Grand Final.

Charnley in, Cipriani out

Rugby Union - Kings of the North - Sale Sharks v Newcastle Falcons - AJ Bell Stadium

Amid some sweeping changes at next union club Sale, who are losing England’s overlooked fly half Danny Cipriani for a return to Wasps and replacing him Dublin-born USA international AJ MacGinty, Charnley’s career after crossing codes will be watched with interest.

Whether he turns out to be a Burgess or a Robinson remains to be seen, but both examples combine to show Sharks and Charnley how to undergo the transition right.

Alternatively, as Diamond observes: “If he doesn’t make it after a year or two, then he could always go back and be a top class rugby league player.”

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