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England centre signs for Rugby League side #CodeHopper

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We’re used to hearing about ‘Code-Hoppers’ in modern rugby but the trend usually is from League to Union. Israel Folau & Jason Robinson could be considered a couple of the best converts over the years.

Former England and current Northampton Saints centre Luther Burrell is bucking the trend and will join Super League side Warrington Wolves at the end of the current season.

Speaking on the move he told the club website;

“I’m buzzing to get involved with Rugby League and the Super League…. I’m not here to make up the numbers, I’m coming over and I mean business.”

The 31-year-old signed for Northampton in 2012 with over 150 club appearances to date including a starting place in the Aviva Premiership Final against Leicester Tigers in his first year followed by the European Challenge Cup and the Aviva Premiership trophy season of 2013/14. He previously played for Leeds Carnegie, 2009, and Sale Sharks, 2011.

He toured Argentina in 2013 and New Zealand for a Test series in 2014 with England and was also a key part of the 2014 and 2015 Six Nation squads, scoring on debut, and the summer tour of Australia in 2016.

Warrington chief executive Karl Fitzpatrick said:

“Opportunities like this don’t come along that often, to sign a player of Luther’s quality and playing CV is fantastic for the club and for Super League. Having played most of his junior rugby in League, Luther is aware of the required skill-set and the physical demands. His impressive stature, his bone-crunching hits and dynamic running are sure to make him a firm favourite with our supporters.”

Burrell added:

“My background is predominantly in Rugby League as I grew up in the north, in Huddersfield, surrounded by the sport and playing it at school. It’s never really left my blood; I guess my aim was to always try my hand at it one day and I’m buzzing to get involved with Rugby League and the Super League. I’m excited about the challenge ahead as it’s fresh for me. I’ve had some great times in Rugby Union, and I’ve had some adverse times, so for me to have this opportunity to play Rugby League and see how far I can get with a great team is exciting.

“The Warrington club is run amazingly well. Pricey (Steve Price) was unbelievable when I met him; it was exciting from the first meeting. I know a couple of the boys too. I know Josh Charnley from his time in Union and I’ve been spoken to him; his message was about how great the club is and from the outside you can see it has aspirations. I’ve watched Rugby League throughout my Union career so to join a club like Warrington, who were finalists last year and have a fantastic squad this season, is exciting as it is a club that is going places.

“I know I will need to earn the trust of my teammates first and foremost. I also hope to bring some physicality, that edge and the ability to break the line. I’ve had the opportunity to play for England in Union and to play on some of the biggest stages in finals. I’d like to think I can transfer the experience I have gained into Rugby League. I’m not here to make up the numbers, I’m coming over and I mean business.

“I want the fans to get to know me for themselves. I’m a northern boy and I’m looking forward to meeting everyone in the squad and getting in the mix with the Wire fans as I know it’s a big rugby town.”

Head coach Steve Price said:

“He’s a quality signing, being a former England International who has played at the highest level in Rugby Union. It’s exciting for Luther to be able to switch codes and to challenge himself in the Super League; in saying that he has still got a number of games left this season with Northampton, once that season is completed we look forward to getting him here and involved in our team.

“He’ll have to get up to speed with new calls, different team mates and a different game, so it will take a bit of time to transition, but he’s tall, athletic and can play in a number of positions which adds a lot of depth to our playing squad.

“He’s had an interest in the game of Rugby League from a young age, and is a great coup for our club.”

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Premiership

Rugby Australia Confirm Skelton Stance

With the Saracens team set to be torn apart, Rugby Australia have announced their intentions regarding one of the side’s key men

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Rugby Australia have confirmed they will be trying to sign up Saracens star Will Skelton following the club’s salary cap scandal.

Skelton has been away from Australia since 2016 following a stint with the Waratahs, where he won the Super Rugby title in 2014. However, in the lead up to the Rugby World Cup last year approaches were made for the massive lock in a bid for him to be eligible for the tournament. 

Those moves came to no avail, but now Rugby Australia’s director of rugby Scott Johnson told The Australian that they will go all out to tempt Skelton back to his homeland. 

“I can’t see them keeping anywhere near that team together and because he [Skelton] is not ­English, he will be one of the first under the spotlight. We have spoken to his agent, and we are going to go heavy this week. We are in a realistic chance at some stage to bring him back, if he wants to come back. He’s going to make a decision on what he is doing this for. Is it money, or is it career? So he has to make that clear to us. For us, we won’t compete for the money. We’ll make a good offer. But I only want guys in the country who want to make a difference. He has apparently been saying the right things but, to be fair, he was always just trying to honour his contract,” he said. 

If he returns to Australia it is believed he could go back to the Waratahs, but there is also rumours that the Rebels or the Brumbies could try and get him onto their books. 

Meanwhile, with a big salary and being unable to play for England, it seems a logical move for Saracens to try and offload the 27-year-old. 

Already they have lost Liam Williams to the Scarlets and it is believed that George Kruis will depart for Japan come the end of the current campaign. While question marks remain over a host of star names including Owen Farrell, Billy Vunipola and Maro Itoje

However, while those players more than likely would seek a move to a club in England, Skelton will have his options and a move back to Australia would be a huge boost for the national side as they head into a new era under Dave Rennie.

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Borthwick Confirms New Job Already

Steve Borthwick confirmed his departure from the England set-up yesterday and less than 24 hours his new role has been announced

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Leicester Tigers have confirmed that England assistant coach Steve Borthwick will take over as head coach once his current commitments to the national side conclude.

It is a move that has been rumoured for some time and with Borthwick announcing his departure from the England set-up yesterday after over four years with them, many expected that he would be heading in the Tigers direction. 

However, the speed at which the confirmation has come about is the only surprise, but the former England international is delighted to be given the chance to manage the Tigers after learning so much from working with Eddie Jones since 2012. 

“The last four-and-a-half years working with the England team has been an incredible journey. I have worked with some brilliant players and staff. In particular, I would like to thank Eddie Jones. To have worked with one of the greatest head coaches in the world for so long has been an unbelievable experience. I’m delighted to be joining Leicester Tigers as head coach. The Tigers have such a long and successful history and are one of the greatest rugby clubs in the game. Welford Road, with the special atmosphere created by the club’s incredible supporters roaring their team forward, is a very special place to be. We must now work to build upon that great history and create our future to get this club to the top of European rugby. It is a brilliant challenge and I am excited to start working with the players and everybody associated with the team. Geordan provides a link with the club’s greatest teams and we will be working together to ensure that there are many successful days ahead for this club, and for our supporters to enjoy,” he said. 

He will be welcomed into the club with open arms after being part of the Japanese national set-up that stunned the world at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, before switching to England where he has won two Six Nations titles and reached a World Cup final. 

His arrival sees current head coach Geordan Murphy changes his role at the club, taking up the position of director of rugby and club chairman Peter Tom believes that the two former stars can build back a Tigers team that has struggled lately. 

“The appointment of Steve Borthwick as head coach and Geordan Murphy in the role of director of rugby provides an exciting combination of leadership, expertise and experience to drive the club forward in its desire to challenge for major honours again. The club has enjoyed many of its greatest successes with a blend of the Tigers DNA alongside fresh, innovative ideas from outside, both among the players and the coaching staff, and we look forward to Geordan and Steve leading that in their respective new roles,” he said. 

Both Borthwick and Murphy will be hoping to bring the Premiership side back to the top level of the game come next season, but before then they have their separate tasks, with Borthwick guiding England through the upcoming Six Nations, while Murphy attempts to take the Tigers further up the Premiership table.

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Premiership

Bath Set to Land Fijian Star

Bath look set to make a mid-season swoop for a Fijian international to help bolster their team

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Bath are reportedly set to sign Fijian back Josh Matavesi from Newcastle Falcons to help cover their growing concerns in the centre.

The 29-year-old has been with the Falcons since 2017 following a move from the Ospreys, but while the club look set for an immediate return to the Premiership after their relegation, Bath appear ready to give him a fast-track back to the top. 

It is believed that Bath are searching for cover for Jonathan Joseph, who is currently sidelined through injury, however, he is expected to be called up to Eddie Jones’ England squad upon his return. 

While fellow centre Jamie Roberts is reportedly on the verge of sealing a move to Super Rugby outfit the Stormers

They do have centre Jackson Willison back from injury, but they feel like Matavesi will bring quality and experience to the midfield. 

Matavesi has 24-caps to his name for Fiji, but called time on his test career following their poor showing at the Rugby World Cup last year, where they failed to progress from the pool stages. 

It would be a big boost for Bath if they can seal the deal as he can also cover the fly-half position. What remains to be seen is if the deal goes through whether or not it will be a deal until the end of the season or beyond, with the Fijian thought to be looking for a move to Super Rugby in the future.

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