Richie Myler and Helen Skelton: France awaits arrival of rugby league's celebrity couple

England half-back heads to Catalan Dragons with young family in tow

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The Independent Online

Richie Myler is determined not to go down in Warrington’s recent history as a misfit.

The England half-back already knows that he will not be with the Wolves next season, having signed for Super League’s French outpost at the Catalan Dragons when Warrington failed to offer him a new contract.

There is no rancour about his departure, however. “If the club has decided it wants to go in a different direction, that’s fair enough,” he says.

But there is a complication. He might not be allowed to finish his six years at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in the way he wants, or even to finish it at all.

Waiting in the wings is the distinctive, rubber ball-shaped figure of Chris Sandow, signed not only for next season but for the remainder of this one.

The enigmatic former South Sydney and Parramatta scrum-half could even play in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley if Warrington beat Hull Kingston Rovers in their semi-final at Headingley on Saturday. He might conceivably have been involved this weekend, had his work permit arrived in time.

“If Chris Sandow arrives and plays out of his skin, then there’s no complaints from me,” Myler says. “As long as it’s decided on form. Tony is very big on form and more competition is always a good thing.”

The Tony in question is Warrington’s coach, Tony Smith, with whom Myler insists he has “a very good relationship”.

It is not, however, an uncomplicated one. Myler, 25, was the game’s most expensive teenager when he signed for Warrington, who then had Lee Briers to call the shots. “Richie is a different type of player,” his coach says. “What we need now is an organiser.”

However this works itself out, it has already been an exciting year for the Myler family. In June, Richie and his wife, the television presenter Helen Skelton, had their first child, Ernie, who, having had the full treatment from Hello! magazine, can claim to be rugby league’s first celebrity baby.

Ernie was one reason, along with the proximity of his grandparents, that they opted for France, rather than following up interest from a couple of NRL clubs in Australia.

“Helen can commute and carry on with her career,” he says. That career includes a five-year stint on Blue Peter and she is now a presenter on BT Sport.

She is also the family’s linguist. “Helen read the contract with the Dragons, because it was in French and mine was pretty rusty,” says Myler. “But Helen did it at A-level.”

Ernie will be brought up, as far as possible, to be bilingual. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for us as a family,” he says.

“Every time I’ve been over there to play I’ve really enjoyed it and I’m excited about living there.”

Myler had no excuse for not enjoying his first playing trip to France in 2009, when he scored three tries and 30 points for England in Paris. He has never quite cemented his Test spot, though, with the general feeling being not that he isn’t a good scrum-half, but that he isn’t always the right type of scrum-half.

Somewhere during the Super Eights that follow these semi-finals, Smith might do something from left field by starting with Myler and having Sandow as a shock weapon on the bench. For now, though, Myler is concentrating on ending his time at Warrington in style and adding to the team’s proud recent Wembley record of three Challenge Cups in four years.

“For me,” Myler says, “it’s all about having my last few games – and, hopefully, the last couple of big games – with the friends I’ve played with for the last six years.”