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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 September 2006, 05:45 GMT 06:45 UK
Union eyes league young blood
Jonathan Davies
By Jonathan Davies
Former dual-code international

With the news that Karl Pryce seems set to join Chev Walker in moving from rugby league to union, it seems that English rugby union clubs are targeting youngsters who may be stars of the future.

They are cherry picking the best young talent and no doubt there will be people asking why they do not develop their own talent.

Chev Walker
Walker will bring plenty of pace and power to the 15-man code
But if the English clubs see a talented youngster playing rugby league and make a bid for him it's down to the player then if he wants to move.

It reflects well on rugby league that union clubs are interested in their young players.

Jason Robinson shows you can successfully switch from league to union, although other players have shown it is a lot more difficult than many people think.

These cross-code raids suggest rugby league does a good job of developing its young players and that they can break through very quickly.

From what I have seen of Karl Pryce, he looks deceptively quick and he is very, very big, as is Walker.

The union clubs must have bought them with a clear idea of what they want from them.

If Bath, who have signed Walker, wanted a ball-handling player then they have got the wrong man - he is not that sort of player.

If they want someone to get over the gain line, then that is his strength.

I think it is probably the start of a trend of talented youngsters moving across from league to union and money has a lot to do with it

He is a good, big, strong ball carrier, but I do not think he is a ball-playing or kicking centre, certainly at the moment, and I think the same applies to Pryce.

They are good in the contact area but what you see is what you get with those two players and I suppose that is what the coaches who have signed them want them for.

It is difficult to know if they can get to the top.

Union boys are getting bigger and stronger, and a more creative centre may be more use than a block-busting centre.

These youngsters are playing at the top of rugby league week in, week out, and the intensity of the 13-man club game is at least the equal of, if not better than, rugby union's Premiership.

The big draw card for all the rugby league boys is the chance to play international rugby union, because it is a much bigger stage.

In union the World Cup and Six Nations are the pinnacle of the sport, whereas in league it's more club orientated.

Karl Pryce in action for Bradford
Pryce stands 6ft 6in and weighs over 18 stone

I think the chance to play on the big stage is one of the big draw cards for these youngsters who are changing codes.

In my day the reason we went north was purely for money.

I think that still has a lot to do with it, because the Rugby Football Union can give these boys a lot more money than they are on at the moment.

If union keeps cherry picking the best youngsters from league then of course it will be detrimental to the 13-man code.

However, league has a tremendous depth in the young talent that keeps coming into the game.

They will not want to lose any of their youngsters and although they will be quite confident in their ability to bring others through to replace them, it will be hard to watch young talent leaving the game.

I think it is probably the start of a trend of talented youngsters moving across from league to union and money has a lot to do with it.

With the salary cap in Super League, youngsters coming through earn a "sensible" wage, and if they impress then they get the big money.

I think it's possible that union will offer them big money earlier in their careers.

They are crossing for the bigger stage and the money and, although I do not want to be controversial, rugby league has to think about how to stem the flow.

SEE ALSO
Bulls expect Pryce to quit Odsal
13 Sep 06 |  Bradford


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