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Double-cross codes: Five switches from Rugby League to Rugby Union

| 09.11.2015

Matt Haynes | November 6, 2015

Following Sam Burgess’ remarkable return to rugby league, with the second row heading back to former NRL side South Sydney Rabbitohs, who are 9/1 with Coral to win the 2016 Grand Final, we take a look at five players who have started in rugby league, tried rugby union and then come back.

Below are five names who rugby league fans may or may not remember, so read on and see who we came up with!

Lee Smith

Rugby League - engage Super League - Leeds Rhinos v Warrington Wolves - Headingley Carnegie

The Leeds winger was prolific for the Rhinos and Wakefield, before crossing codes to join London Wasps and Newcastle Falcons, though made just six appearances for both clubs. He switched back to league in 2015, pledging his allegiance to former club Wakefield.

Wendell Sailor

Rugby League - 2000 World Cup - Final - Australia v New Zealand

Having started at NRL side Brisbane Broncos, the winger soon became a revelation and was soon picked for Australia’s international rugby league side. His form attracted the attention of rugby union outfits Queensland Reds and NSW Waratahs, also featuring for Australia in this code. However, he switched back to his roots for the 2008/09 season joining St George Illawarra Dragons.

Sonny Bill Williams

Rugby League - World Cup 2013 - Group B - New Zealand v Samoa - Halliwell Jones Stadium

Beginning his career at Canterbury Bulldogs, the once heavyweight boxer, switched to rugby union side Toulon and subsequently played for four other sides, before moving back to rugby league to turn out for Sydney Roosters, where he actually fared much better than he did at any of his rugby union clubs.

However, he has since switched a fourth time and currently plays for New Zealand rugby union team Chiefs. Also he has recently just won the Rugby World Cup with the All Blacks. Not a bad career eh?

Iestyn Harris

Rugby League - engage Super League - Bradford Bulls v Huddersfield Giants - Grattan Stadium

While Warrington Wolves was his first club, it wasn’t until he moved to the Rhinos when he really began to shine. In 2001 he went home to Wales, switching codes to play for Cardiff RFC for two years and Cardiff Blues for a year.

However, in 2004 he moved back to the Super League to play for four years at Bradford Bulls and a year at Featherstone Rovers. In both codes, he represented Wales, as well as Great Britain in league.

Lote Tuqiri

Rugby League - NRL Round 16 - Newcastle Knights v Wests Tigers - Hunter Stadium
A name synonymous with southern hemisphere rugby, the 36-year-old began at Brisbane Broncos, before switching codes to NSW Waratahs, where he then progressed considerably further north appearing for Leicester Tigers and Leinster.

In 2014, he came back to league, joining South Sydney Rabbitohs and will link up with the returning Burgess next season. He is another who has also represented his country (Australia) for both codes, even appearing for Fiji in league.


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Matt Haynes

A long-suffering Leeds fan, Matt studied Sports Journalism at university, and has a plethora of multi-industry experience. Having worked on behalf of multiple hedge funds and top-tier investment banks in executive search, he has also had a stint with the BBC and the Press Association. Outside of work, he pursues entrepreneurial activities and likes to keep fit.
Although he has interviewed current England manager Roy Hodgson as well as Rafa Benitez and a number of other names, he is honoured to have spent time in the company of Gordon Banks. Matt enjoys cultivating long-lasting professional and personal relationships, is solution orientated, and supports Coral’s sports content provision.