Leeds Rhinos: Union has the cash to splash on our players - McGuire

Lee Smith.
Lee Smith.
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SAM BURGESS is a good bloke and I wish him well, but his decision to switch sports is bad news for rugby league.

He will be a massive loss to our game when he leaves South Sydney to join Bath at the end of the NRL season.

Right now, I would put him up there as one of the top two or three players in the world and players of his ability don’t come along very often.

Considering the financial muscle NRL clubs have got it is a shock they haven’t been able to hang on to him and that just shows how strong rugby union is now when it comes to money.

Obviously the wages on offer will have been a factor and there’s nothing wrong with that, but knowing Sam and his family a little bit, I am sure he has got a desire to play on the biggest stage possible.

Sadly, international rugby union is 100 times stronger than international rugby league.

Sam wants to put himself on one of the biggest stages in world sport and he can’t do that in rugby league.

Next year’s rugby union World Cup will be a massive event.

There’s a football World Cup coming up this year which will be huge, but union’s event is not far behind now and I can understand why Sam would want to be part of that.

So does rugby league need to be worried?

I think the answer to that is yes. I wrote in this column last year about the danger of the player drain to the NRL and it seems rugby union has even more cash to splash around.

Different players have different motivation and different things they want to achieve, but the financial difference between the two codes is quite startling.

Sam isn’t the only player to take up a union contract recently.

Lee Smith left Wakefield to join Newcastle Falcons last week and I have spoken to him about it and understand why he made that decision.

Lee wants to get his career back on track.

He was one of the best young players in the game when he was at Leeds, but his move to union at London Wasps didn’t work out as well as he would have hoped.

He came back to league and did a good job for us and for Wakefield, but I think he has still got unfinished business in the 15-a-side game and he sees Newcastle as a good opportunity to kick on and be successful.

I am sure Lee will do well in union and so will Sam. Sam is in a different situation because he’s a rugby league forward and will probably play in the backs at union.

Forwards in union are born, not made.

It’s such a technical job it’s the sort of position you have to play from a young age, but the role of the backs is a bit less complex and I am sure Sam is physical enough, strong enough and skilful enough to make a go of it. I have never played union and it’s not something I have ever thought about.

If I did go, it would only be for financial reasons.

I keep in touch with Leeds Carnegie’s results and I watch England, but I am not really a union fan and I am happy to stay in league.

Jamie Jones-Buchanan.

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