Rugby Union: Authorities worried as Paul joins Bath

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The Independent Online
On the day Bath confirmed their capture of another rugby league player the governing bodies of both codes were expressing concern at the growing trend of the transfer from the 13-man code to the newly professional union game.

The double winners announced that Wigan's Henry Paul begins a four-month contract from 8 September, which will keep him at the Recreation Ground until 11 January, a week after the European Cup final. They have already recruited the former Swansea, Wales and Lions back-row forward Richard Webster, who returns to union after three years with Salford.

Maurice Lindsay, the Rugby League chief executive, spoke to the Rugby Football Union secretary, Tony Hallett, this week and he admitted there were concerns. Hallett said: "We will be looking at it from the point of view of the impact on both codes and how it will affect the relative international strengths. Also the physical strain on individual players who follow a summer of league with a winter of union before returning to league again. We need to assess the extent of the wear and tear on them; after all, there is only so much a body can take."

Both governing bodies admit there is little they can do in the professional era to prevent players doing what they want, and right now the demand for league players is high.

Paul is a perfect example, because Bath were not the only club chasing him. "Harlequins made a very interesting offer, but I want to play for Bath because they are the best. It's as simple as that."

What is not quite so simple is where Bath will play him. Paul is not bothered and is quite happy to leave that kind of selectorial headache to others. "It's up to Bath where I play," he said. "I've no particular preference."