Could Roger Tuivasa-Sheck be about to defect from Rugby League to Rugby Union?

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First come Sonny Bill Williams, the next star transition from League to Union could come at the expense of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

This is any League player’s dream to try out another code in Union so they can minutes on the board in club/provincal rugby before aiming to throw himself in the reckoning via selection for the All Black’s 2019 Rugby World Cup tour.

What do we know about Tuivasa-Sheck’s un-verified switch to Union?

  • The rumours began back in October 2017 made by the Australian press whilst the Kiwis were given shock quarter-final upset v Fiji in the Rugby League World Cup, Tuivasa-Sheck revealed that he would like to have a try playing in Union and breakthrough into the All Black side.
  • All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was flattered by the idea of having him in his disposal & says if any Super Rugby team over in New Zealand manages to secure Tuivasa-Sheck’s signature then he’d be a great hire for the squad.
  • According to Radio New Zealand, the deal between Tuivasa-Sheck and NZ Rugby was about to complete & is in the works. However, both NZ Rugby and his incumbent League side NZ Warriors have dismissed that claim saying he and his agent Bruce Sharrock neither held formal talks with NZ Rugby nor having told the Warriors about switching to a different code. He’s also on the radar of his old Sydney Roosters’s arch-rival, South Sydney Rabbitohs regarding his signature for next season.
  • His contract with the Warriors expires at the end of this year.

If he was to switch to another code from league to union, there are a few positives that he would love to crave the 15-man code and there are some drawbacks that he needs to be aware if he seriously wants does not want to end up being a flop like Sam Burgess and Benji Marshall.

Positives

  • Tuivasa-Sheck has played both a mix of league and union in the past where he led the Otahuhu College’s first XV union side as well as the school’s league team.
  • He also played union for the New Zealand Secondary Schools in 2011 before being caught in the eye by NRL clubs in Australia. That’s when he was picked up by the Sydney Roosters.
  • He has missed some part of the competitveness he played in Union when he played for over six or seven years in league. Tuivasa-Sheck was part of the 2012 National Youth Competiton Team of the Year, NZ Rugby League’s 2012 Junior Player of the Year as well as having won a NRL Premiership alongside Sonny Bill Williams with the Roosters in 2013 before moving back home two years with the Warriors on a 3 year-deal, reported worth $850,000 AUD a year where he is presently made as captain of the side.
  • Having achieved several times in League, Tuivasa-Sheck feels he has unfinished business to do in Union and if he follows the footsteps of his former team-mate Sonny Bill then winning a Bledisloe Cup, Rugby Championship and the Rugby World Cup’s Webb Ellis Trophy is at the top of his fingertips. There’s no doubt that it would be that difficult to ingore these ambitions and attempt it for the very best of his career. So chasing more silverware would be the best ideal move going forward for him.
  • He’s still young at 24 years of age so this is the right time for him to play for the Auckland Blues across five nations as well as gain more experience in the Mitre 10 Cup at provincal level. This will be his first steps of playing back in Union if he agreed to signing a deal with NZ Rugby. Also imagine if Rieko Ioane and Tuivasa-Sheck playing together for the Blues in the midfield or the backs position, that would be a electric partnership that would dominate any opposing Super Rugby team.
  • Another plus sign is the aid of Sonny Bill Williams, they played together at the Roosters and knows what’s it like to play in Rugby Union as a senior player. If he was to play in the 15 man code and don’t know how to succeed then Sonny Bill has his back.

Negatives

  • Yes, you would love to win a Rugby World Cup, Bledisloe Cup and the Rugby Championship by ticking those off on your bucket list. However, if you actually sat on the bench most of the time, is it worth to say you’ve achieved those things throughout your career by not having enough game time? I don’t think Tuivasa-Sheck would be amazed by the switch to Union.
  • He would be positioned as a midfielder or in the outside backs position but he would have to work way tougher to get that All Black jersey than he would be right now because Rieko Ioane, Damian McKenzie and Jordie Barrett are ahead of him in the peaking order. If he cannot manage to settle them down and make his position on his own then it’s more likely that he has to think twice about his ambitions in the 15-man code.
  • He should’ve switched back there two years ago either playing Union back home or in France and I think it’s best to say that Tuivasa-Sheck is far more suited to league based on his experience with the Sydney Roosters and the NZ Warriors in the NRL.
  • It’s not that easy for any player who transitions from AFL or NRL to make a quick impact to the 15-man code. Not even Sonny Bill Williams can manage to get his Union skills up to today’s standard having first played rugby in France in 2008, moved back to New Zealand playing provincial/club rugby as well as All Blacks duty in 2010-2012 then league again with the Roosters in 2013-2014 and back to Union from 2015-present having played Olympic 7s two years ago as well as presently playing for Auckland Blues and the All Blacks.
  • Although Tuivasa-Sheck can play provisional rugby in the Mitre 10 cup after the NRL season is over depending on the Warrior’s finals position but the question is will any provincial team would be brave enough to put him minutes on the field halfway through the season? Yes, it can depend on the injury list. However, are they be willing to be patient with him having not played in Union for seven years? That is entirely up to the team to answer that question.

Final Thoughts

It will be great to see Roger Tuivasa-Sheck switch codes from Rugby League to Rugby Union if any negotation with NZ Rugby is formally signed in a view for All Blacks selection for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

That is any league player’s dream to crave that type of experience.

However, the question is can Tuivasa-Sheck can make a quick impact in Union and follow the footpaths of Sonny Bill Williams by making a position on his own & crave a long and successful career in the 15-man code.

You can’t just say I’d go and switch to Rugby Union so I can play at the 2019 Rugby World Cup because this looks like a short-term plan where Sam Burgess failed to crave the switch he wanted in Union having played only five matches for England as well as 21 matches for Bath in the Aviva Premiership throughout 2014-2015.

His limited playing time combined with the lack of skill and inexperience shows how unprepared and uncommited he is when it comes to being a part of England’s disasterous 2015 World Cup campaign where they finished 3rd in Pool A. Hence England failed to qualify for the Quarter Finals as they became the first former World Champions to be eliminated from the tournament.

Since S. Burgess’s defection back to league with the South Sydney Rabbitohs, England have since risen back to No.2 in the World Rugby standings thanks to current coach Eddie Jones having won the Six Nations Championship back to back in 2016-17 as well as being named as the 2017 World Rugby Coach of the Year.

This is the type of scenario Tuivasa-Sheck should learn from that lesson as he is not guaranteed to be the next successful code-hopper like Sonny Bill Williams and Jason Robinson.

So if Tuivasa-Sheck can go back to Union then great but he must ensure that he gets regular playing time on the field at club/provincial level as well as having clarified that he will try and make his position in the midfield or backs position on his own both at domestic and international level in the long-term.

However, if Tuivasa-Sheck plays in Union and sits on the bench most of the time including the World Cup in Japan next year then it’s best to say that he should stick to what he’s good at in Rugby league right now.

For now, we will have to wait and see if Roger-Tuivasa Sheck would stay in Rugby League or have a crack at Rugby Union. If you agree or disagree with his ambitions in the 15-man code, feel free to comment below.

References: Image of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is from the Warriors website,  Radio New Zealand and FOX SPORTS AUSTRALIA.

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