Cardiff to unveil £800,000 Harris after league raid

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The Independent Online

Cardiff are expected to announce the signing of the Leeds Rhinos rugby league captain Iestyn Harris in the next 24 hours as the games's two codes, union and league, move closer together.

The transfer fee for Harris is reported to be around £800,00, and will be paid by the Welsh Rugby Union, which will also bankroll the £350,000 for Keiron Cunningham's move to Swansea from St Helens.

However, the WRU is a trifle strapped for cash especially since the foot-and-mouth outbreak has deprived it, thus far, of income from the Wales v Ireland match, and it is hoping to reduce the transfer total of almost £1.2m by offering Leeds Rhinos and the Tykes a hospitality box at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff for the next five years – which is worth around £250,000.

Cardiff will be responsible for Harris's salary, which is thought to be around £200,000 per year. He will also pick up more money in sponsorship deals with Reebok, which is one of the WRU's backers, all of which should make him one of the biggest earners in Rugby Union. He will not be available until the end of Rugby League's Super League season and will not play the 13-a-side game until his Cardiff and Wales commitments have been fulfilled at the end of the 2003-04 season.

Cunningham is poised to join the Welsh-Scottish League champions Swansea, who will have to foot his £150,000 annual salary.

Pat Lam, meanwhile, has been named as the Newcastle Falcons captain for the forthcoming season. Lam, the former Samoa captain, who, after 41 appearances, retired from the Test scene two years ago, re-signed for Newcastle from Northampton in the summer.

Rob Andrew, the Newcastle director of rugby, said: "Pat has been an inspirational leader wherever he has played. He has come back to where he started his career in Britain and with all the young players in the club his leadership qualities will be invaluable." The Western Samoan will lead Newcastle for the first time at Kingston Park on Friday when they meet Glasgow Caledonians in Richard Arnold's testimonial match, which kicks-off at 7pm.

* The Australian prop Nick Stiles is confident of overcoming a thigh injury in time to play in Saturday's Test against New Zealand. The Wallabies, the defending Bledisloe Cup and Tri-Nations champions, are expected to name a team tomorrow for the Test in Dunedin.

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