Rooney signs for Worcester

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The Independent Online

Worcester have moved to fill the vacancy that will be left by Chris Latham's departure later this year by signing former Australian rugby league star Luke Rooney.

Rooney, 26, will move to Sixways from French club Toulon, where he is currently a team-mate of England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson.

Rooney, who is English-qualified through his parents, has agreed a two-year contract with the Warriors, starting next term.

Latham, the second-highest try scorer in Australian Test rugby history, has decided not to take up a third-year option on his existing Worcester contract and will head home at the end of this season.

Rooney previously played for Penrith Panthers, helping them to the 2003 National Rugby League title when he scored two tries in the final against Sydney Roosters.

He switched codes and joined Toulon in 2008, and scored five tries in 16 games during his first season of Top 14 French Championship rugby.

Rooney said his ambition to play for England had been a "major motivating factor" behind his decision to join Worcester.

He said: "I have been watching the competitive English league closely over the last few seasons, and I am really excited to now become a part of it.

"My long-term goal is to represent England - that has been a major motivating factor in my move to Warriors.

"I've really enjoyed my time in France with Toulon, both on and off the field, and would like to thank the fans and my team-mates for such a wonderful experience.

"The chance to switch to rugby union and test myself in a new environment has really seen my game move up to a new level and I know that will only continue with Worcester."

Warriors rugby director Mike Ruddock added: "We are delighted to sign Luke Rooney - he is a big capture for us.

"He caught my eye with a man-of-the-match performance against Saracens in the Amlin Challenge Cup this season, and when I looked at a number of other games in which he had played it became obvious he was an incredibly talented player.

"He was also man of the match for Toulon this season against Castres, and he has developed his game superbly whilst playing alongside the likes of Jonny Wilkinson in France.

"Luke is a big, strong full-back with a massive left boot.

"He has a lot of top-class rugby league international experience under his belt, having previously played rugby league for Australia and for New South Wales in the State of Origin.

"He comes to us with an ambition to play rugby union for England, through his English parents, and I am sure it won't be long before Martin Johnson will start looking at him."