Rugby Union: Woodward may look at league talent

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Clive Woodward may tap rugby league's pool of young talent to improve his team's chances for the 1999 World Cup, he said yesterday.

The England coach and his assistant Phil Larder, the former Great Britain rugby league coach who led England to the 1995 World Cup final, may consider taking look at young players from the rival code.

"We have no doubt, I have no doubt that there are some very talented players in the north of England," Woodward said. "I have to say that it's only an idea, and we could only do that with the help of the clubs, and if the club thought the player was good enough, maybe we could talk to the club together and give them a crack at rugby union."

Woodward also sounded a note of caution, however, saying, "to suggest that he would come straight into the England team is just ridiculous. If they're good enough on merit to compete with the likes of Will Greenwood, Jerry Guscott, then that would be fantastic, but I think it would take a rugby league guy a year, two years, to at least adapt to our style.

"But Phil Larder has said he's confident that there are one or two guys who could play first-team football at club level, which is quite encouraging. So I think it's a good idea."

Woodward told BBC Radio 5 Live the players he would be interested in would not be experienced expensive players, such as Gary Connolly of Wigan.

"I am not even thinking about those. I don't think we could afford those kinds of players. I'm thinking about the young guys, the 18 and 19-year- olds.

"We've got a huge population of rugby players in England. And there's a large pool of talented players in the north of England that I don't think everybody's tapped into."

Maurice Lindsay, the Rugby Football League chief executive, responded by saying that players will not be allowed to switch codes unless union followed the rules of contract.

"Nobody can induce contracted players to breach contract," Lindsay said. "Players don't move until their contracts are up. Normally clubs expect players to honour their contracts."

Lindsay likened the situation to a league club going after one of the England union side.

"It would be like Wigan paying to buy Lawrence Dallaglio out of his Wasps contract," he said. "If Clive Woodward comes to sign our players, then we shall deal with it. We have a very good production line anyway. If he wants to come and put pounds 20m or whatever into our coffers, then that'll help our system."