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Rugby, Australian Football: Farrell close to Union switch

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posted on Feb, 12 2005 @ 12:51 PM
Andy Farrell, Wigan and Great Britain's record-breaking captain, is poised to claim a place in history by becoming the first high-profile rugby league forward to make the switch to union. The 29-year-old - a rugby league icon who has been an ever-present with Great Britain for the last 12 years - is in talks with the Rugby Football Union, it was officially confirmed on Friday. Farrell, who has two years left to run on his Wigan contract, is said to have been offered in excess of £200,000 a year to join his former team-mate Jason Robinson in the England set-up in time for the 2007 World Cup in France.

Although a number of high-profile players - most notably Robinson, Henry Paul and Iestyn Harris - have made the switch to the 15-man code since the game went professional in 1995, all of them have been backs. The prospects of rugby league forwards changing codes has always appeared remote because of the complexities of the ruck and maul and the greater emphasis placed on the set-piece scrum and line-out. Apart from Wigan's 1996 cross-code challenge with Bath and the Middlesex Sevens of the same year, Farrell has never played union - and he will be 32 by the time of the next World Cup.

Even so, he is said to be tempted by the challenge - and England, impressed by his leadership qualities, see him as the man to fill the void following the retirement of Martin Johnson and Lawrence Dallaglio. Friday's announcement, issued through a joint statement by the RFU and Wigan, will send shockwaves through rugby league on the eve of the new Engage Super League season. Farrell, awarded the OBE in the New Year's Honours for services to rugby league, has played for his home-town team since he was 16 - and he has captained his country in each of the last 29 Tests going back to 1996.

He has amassed more than 4,000 points in his career and won his 34th cap in the Tri-Nations Series final against Australia in November.



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