Six of the Best

World Cup fever hits Leeds this weekend as first Canada do battle with Italy at Elland Road, before Scotland take on USA tomorrow. Here we take a look at some of the players who have graced both rugby league and union.

Saturday, 26th September 2015, 12:00 am

Jason Robinson

THE Leeds-born winger is one of rugby’s genuine greats. A World Cup winner with England in Rugby Union, he excelled with England and Great Britain at Rugby League during his glittering career. Nicknamed “Billy Whizz” because of his explosive pace, his potential was first spotted as a player for Hunslet Boys Club as an under-11. He made his name playing for the great Wigan side of the 90s. He moved to union in 2000 with dazzling effect as he went on to score 28 tries in 51 Tests and played in two World Cup finals – claiming a try in England’s nail biting extra-time victory over Australia in the 2003 final.

Sam Burgess

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AFTER an eventful 12 months, the Dewsbury-born international stands on the verge of greatness. One of four league-playing brothers, he made his name with Bradford Bulls before moving to Australia and the South Sydney Rabbitohs. In his final game for the club he was named man of the match despite suffering a broken cheekbone early on. Now playing union, he has been fast-tracked into the England squad for the World Cup, coming off the bench in the host nation’s opening win over Fiji. It could be a career-defining month if Stuart Lancaster’s side go all the way.

Lesley Vainikolo

DUBBED “the Volcano” because of his pace and power, the Tongan-Kiwi-Englishman has enjoyed a hugely impressive career. The Tongan-born winger crossed codes in 2007 after a successful career in rugby league. He joined Bradford Bulls at the age of 22 in 2002 when he was struggling with a shoulder injury. He recovered well though, and broke the Super League try scoring record in 2004, scoring 37 tries in 26 appearances including five hat tricks. By the time he left the club, he had racked up 149 tries in 152 appearances.

Andy Farrell

THE former Great Britain Rugby League captain has enjoyed quite some career. The loose forward made his debut for Wigan Warriors against Keighley in 1991 and didn’t look back. He made 370 appearances for Wigan and won 34 Great Britain caps before switching codes in 2005 to join Saracens. Injuries and a car accident limited Farrell’s appearances in the 15-man game and he only played 28 games for Saracens, also winning eight England caps, before retiring in 2009. Since then he has established himself as a top coach at both club and national level.

Shontayne Hape

BORN in New Zealand, Hape started out playing Rugby League in his native country before moving to England. He spent five years with Bradford Bulls where formed a fearsome partnership with Vainikolo and was capped by New Zealand. He switched to Rugby Union in 2008 but retired prematurely at the age of 33 after injuries took their toll. Hape said he could hardly remember his bank card pin number at times and suffered from depression due to the repeated concussions – more than 20 – that he had endured during a glittering career.

John Gallagher

JOHN Gallagher was one of the greatest full-backs in Rugby Union history. Although born in South London he emigrated to New Zealand as a teenager and three years later found himself a World Cup winner. He only played 18 matches for the All Blacks, but still managed a remarkable 13 tries – including five in the 1987 tournament. In 1990, he returned home to England and converted to rugby league. He signed for Leeds RLFC but during his three years with the club he struggled to play to the same sublime standard, with the tactical differences and injuries hampering his time in the sport.