Only a select few players have managed to transcend rugby and find success in both codes of the game. Below are seven of the most talented and successful players to achieve this feat.


JASON ROBINSON – ‘Billy Whiz’ scored 137 tries in 8 years for Wigan Warriors RLFC before making the switch to union. He settled quickly into the new code for both Sale Sharks, England and the British Lions. Winning the World Cup and the Premiership in a ten year spell.

CHRIS ASHTON – Another convert from Wigan Warriors. He scored 30 tries in 52 games before switching codes and moving to Northampton. He found his feet straight away and has scored 78 tries in 81 games for the Saints as well as making a big splash on the international scene. He currently has 9 tries in 9 games for England and is revolutionising wing play in Union.

SONNY BILL WILLIAMS – In 2010 the New Zealand centre became only the second player to play for both the New Zealand Kiwis and the All Blacks. Sonny Bill turned down the largest ever contract offer ($6 million) for a rugby union player in order to play for New Zealand. He is also an undefeated heavyweight boxer.

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JONATHAN DAVIES – A Welsh fly half who picked up 27 caps for the Welsh Rugby Union side and 19 for the Welsh and Great British RUgby league sides. Even winning the RFL’s Man of Steel Award, for the 93-94 player of the season.

SCOTT GIBBS – Another Welsh convert, who played in the centre for Wales and the British Lions in union, as well as Wales and Great Britain in league. he’s best remembered for winning the ‘player of the series’ in the memorable 1997 Lions tour of South Africa.

GARETH THOMAS – A Welsh phenomena. He picked up 100 caps for the Welsh Rugby Union team before converting to league in 2010. Despite being 36 he is still making an impact in league and has picked up 4 caps, scoring 3 tries for the Welsh Rugby League team.


DALLY MESSENGER – The first and arguably the greatest cross code player of all time. Messenger was the first ever player to play both rugby league and rugby union at an international level, and is still considered as one of the greatest players in both codes. On top of his success in both forms of rugby while touring England with the ‘Kangaroos’ in 1908 he was offered football contracts by Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspurs. Only to turn them down, dismissing football as decadent.

Dally Messenger







Sheffield Hallam’s Rugby Union and Rugby League teams will face off for the first time ever in a cross codes game.

The game will see the sides play each other in a one off match. With the first half played by rugby league rules and the second by rugby union’s law book.

The two sides have faired very differently this season with the Union team being relegated from Premier B following four wins and ten losses.

Whereas the League team finished comfortably in mid-table and made it to the final of the Men’s Trophy, were they lost 36-30 to Leeds met 2’s.

Despite this the game should be a tightly contested affair. With several rivalries to settle and the serious matter of bragging rights to compete for.

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Ross White, 20, social secretary for Sheffield Hallam Rugby Union believes that the league team will not be able to handle the technical side of union.

“We’ll beat them hands down in scrums, line-outs and in the loose. They don’t know how to ruck and maul. They won’t be able to live with us at the set piece, whereas in league we won’t have to much to learn.”

Sean Burke, 22, player for Sheffield Hallam Rugby League says that the league side will be too powerful for the union team.

“All our players are strong and athletic. In union only a few of the lads are really strong, you still have some fatter, slower players on the park. We’ll be fitter and more powerful than them all over the pitch. An easy win for league.”

Bath Vs Wigan, 1996

Since the two codes separated, due to a dispute over the payment of players, to form different games in 1895 there has been a constant argument over which form of the game is better. With both sports claiming that they are the superior side.

This has been contested in several high profile games over the past. With the three biggest games spanning back to the turn of the last century.

The first cross codes game took place in 1909 when the Australian Kangaroos took on the Australian Wallabies. With the Kangaroos winning 29-26 for rugby league.

The second recorded cross codes game was between Leeds Rugby League and the Royal Navy Rugby Union, in 1917. With two games played, one in each code. This time the Union side came out on top, with the Navy winning 9-3 in union and 24-3 in league.

The modern day equivalent of the Kangaroos vs Wallabies

In 1995 rugby union turned professional  and in 1996 Bath RUFC and Wigan RLFC made history by playing the first ever professional cross codes games. The first match took place at Maine Road, Manchester, under league rules and Wigan cruised to a 82 – 6 victory.

Two weeks later a bigger shock was in store when Wigan once again beat Bath 44-19 under union rules at Twickenham.

This game will allow rugby union to regain some credibility following it’s previous losses at the hand of rugby league opposition.

The game will be played at Abbeydale Sports Centre on Wednesday 27th April, with all proceeds going to charity.







Sheffield Hallam retained the Varsity trophy for the fourth year running following a 1 point victory over Sheffield University.

The event, that runs over 8 days, came down to the final day. With Hallam clinching the title with 31 points to Sheffield University’s 30.

Unlike last year Hallam already had the result wrapped up before the main event kicked off at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium. Making the men’s first eleven football game something of a non event.


Despite this thousands of fans turned up to see the final game. Creating an intense atmosphere that wouldn’t have seemed out of place at a Sheffield derby.

The game itself was quite a quiet affair and resulted in The University of Sheffield claiming a 2-1 victory

over their rivals. Causing disappointment for both sets of fans, and ending the event on a quiet note.

Kick Off

The match, which was being officiated by World Cup Final referee Howard Webb, started in quite an open fashion with both teams pushing forward in search of an equaliser. Sheffield University made the first break through after 20 minutes. Scoring from a neat ball into the box.

Hallam continued to press forward and 10 minutes later scored the equaliser from a long shot that was fumbled by the opposition goalkeeper.

This sparked wild celebrations from the players and fans alike. But they were short lived and following another keeper error Sheffield University were back on top.

The next 45 minutes of play were passionate but less than entertaining and the game remained the same until Howard Webb blew the final whistle.

Final whistle

Hallam’s first team captain, and centre back Darren Norman was understandably disappointed by the result.

“I’m gutted to lose, we finished higher up than them in the league and we beat them earlier in the year. So we should be winning. At least we didn’t cost the university Varsity though.”

Sheffield Hallam Sports Officer Colan Leung was delighted with the overall result.

“It’s amazing to win and the support for the last 8 days has been incredible. I want to thank everyone that competed and the fans for making it such a great Varsity.

“Hopefully we can build on this and keep the trophy for another year.”

Hallam Sports Officer Colan Leung and Football Chairman Dan Deakin with the Varsity trophy






On Wednesday 6th April, Sheffield Hallam and The University of Sheffield will compete in the final day of Varsity 2011.

The showpiece event will be the men’s first-eleven-football which is taking place at 6pm in Sheffield Wednesday’s iconic Hillsborough stadium.

Last year this event attracted almost 4000 fans with Hallam coming out on top. And this year once again has the added attraction of World Cup final referee Howard Webb officiating the game.

So far this season both teams have beaten each other once. However Hallam hold a slight advantage having finished three places and six points above them in the BUCS Men’s Northern 1A.

Sheffield Hallam Football chairman Daniel Deakin said.

“After last years victorious win it has made it more exciting, and with a bigger crowd and hopefully another big win it should be a cracking end to Varsity 2011.”

Going into the final two days The University of Sheffield are holding a one point lead over Hallam. But with rugby league, football, hockey, cricket and BMX all left to compete it is all to play for. And there is every chance the final game could well be the deciding event for the entire competition.







Craig Breslow – A baseball pitcher from Oakland who has a degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale.

Will Carling – Retired professional rugby player with 72 caps for England and a degree in Psychology from    Durham.

Jonathon Edwards – World record setting triple jumper who has a degree in physics from Durham.

Jessica Ennis – Current World and European heptathlon champion and Psychology degree from the University of Sheffield.

Ryan Fitzpatrick QB for the Buffalo Bills with a degree in economics from Harvard.

Chris Hoy – Olympic Gold medallist Cyclist and has a degree in applied sport science St Andrews

Ben Kay – Won the Rugby World cup winner with England and has a degree in Sports science from Loughborough.

Brian McClair – Retired Manchester United and Wales star with a maths degree from Glasgow.

Shaquille O’Neil – Basketball player for Boston Celtic’s with a BA degree in General Studies.

Jamie Roberts – Professional rugby for Wales and the Cardiff Blues, and is currently studying medicine at Cardiff University

Andrew Strauss- England’s cricket test captain who gained an economics’ degree from Durham.






Mohammad Amir’s 5 year ban from competitivecricket at the age of just eighteen has forced him to look back on his decision to dismiss his education and chase the cricketing dream.

He has now admitted that dropping out of school was a mistake. Leaving him contemplating what to do with his life.

While Amir is having to face this reality at a young age many ‘sports stars’ face this exact same dilemma when their playing days are over.

This decision to give up on learning is not uncommon in professional sport and in the modern era with it’s mental, physical and emotional demands it may not even be possible to play at the highest level and continue with higher education.

James Gaskell

James Gaskell, 21, of Sale Sharks and England risked everything by giving up his education and dropping out of university to concentrate on sport. He believes that you only have one chance and when it comes around you have to grab it with both hands.

James Gaskell on why he stayed dropped out of university,

“It’s [playing for Sale] a once in a life time opportunity. If I’d taken three or four years to go to university then there’s a chance I could of missed out on a contract at the end of it. I wasn’t guaranteed one. I had to really take the opportunity that was put in front of me.”

Even at the top level it used to be the case that all players had second jobs. But with the money involved in today’s market most players are either ill advised or believe that after they finish playing they will have enough money to live a life of luxury. Although not everyone makes the grade and injuries are always possible. Leaving hundred’s of athletes out of a contract, with no club and no education.

Chris Bryniarski

Chris Bryniarski, 22, of Coventry Blaze, Great Britain and Sheffield Hallam believes that getting an education is more important than succeeding in the sporting arena.

Chris Bryniarski on why he stayed in education.

“I would go with university. I’d go with university purely because it [playing] doesn’t last. Anything could happen in ice hockey. If you have a degree then you can get a better job. Over here in the UK professional ice hockey doesn’t pay that well and lots of players have second jobs.”

Bryniarski is happy to admit that if he hadn’t come to Sheffield Hallam then he probably would have dropped out to concentrate solely on ice hockey.

“The university is really good for me, they give me a lot of time for Ice Hockey. Thats one of the reasons why I cam to Sheffield Hallam.”

Sheffield Hallam University is one of the universities’ at the forefront of encouraging these young players to attend university and is dedicated to giving these individual’s a chance to complete a degree. Sport’s Officer Colan Leung gave me this statement regarding their Talented Athlete Scholarships:

“The High Performance Hallam programme aims to attract talented student athletes to study at Sheffield Hallam University and offer support to balance their university life and achieve their sporting potential.

“The High Performance Hallam programme is available to athletes who are currently competing at the top level within their sport and are either full-time or part-time students at Sheffield Hallam University.”







Winter Varsity 2011 kicks off tomorrow with the much anticipated ice hockey match.

The match sees players from the Sheffield Bears split in two and face off against each other in order to gain bragging rights for their university.

Any friendships or loyalties are left behind as players from Hallam and Uni compete against each other for this annual event.

Chris Bryniarski, Sheffield Hallam, believes it’s one of the most fearsome games in the hugely successful club’s season.

“The varsity match is renowned for grudges. I think in all the teams ice hockey is the biggest event. The players like to push and shove each other a lot more in the games.”

Last year the event drew a crowd of over 4,000 and this year they are expecting even more fans to descend upon the Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield.







Sport seems to have forgotten who the most important people in the game are.

No it is not the multi-billionaire owners, the managers, the greedy agents or even the players themselves. It is infact the fans. without them there would be no clubs, no wages and no big money transfers or scandals. Yet increased wages and transfers for players has lead to a sharp increase in prices for fans and resulted many of them turning away from the clubs they run.

This is not just true of football. Rugby Union is also seeing a large decrease in attendances, with the Aviva Premiership attracting 12% less fans this season than it was by Christmas last year.

So if the clubs are going to price their fans out of their stadiums then where should they turn to find their weekly fix of passion and adrenaline?

Why not University sport? After all it works in America. The NCAA college level football league attracts average attendance’s of over 45,000 and brought in more than 37 million fans in 2008.

If we attracted even a hundredth of these numbers to a university game I can ensure that these players would not sell out for a higher pay cheque. They would simply enjoy the pleasure of finally getting to showcase their skills to a larger audience than the usual one passer by and his dog.

And why not attend. Some of these players have just as much talent as many high level players. And the passion and rivalries are just as intense – if you don’t believe it go down to watch your local varsity match -. Its also free, surely if it is the sport that you are really interested in then this has to be the best possible invitation  to attend.

In fact many players from these games end up playing at the highest level anyway and you’d have to remortage your house just to watch them play.

So why is no one turning up?

I can’t understand how a sport mad student is more than happy to travel down to Bournemouth to watch Sheffield Wednesday but thinks the 10 minute trip to the university playing fields is too difficult.

Understandably their are clashes with seminars and lectures, and the sport is incredibly under advertised but if you can make the effort to turn up I can guarantee you that you will witness some thrilling sport. And the players will actually appreciate you turning up.

Colan Leung the sports Officer from Sheffield Hallam University believes the public and the students should get behind their local university.

“University has just as big rivalries and players as professional sport. At Hallam we have dozens of players who represent National sides playing week in week out in front of no one. The public are welcome to come down and get involved. we’d love their support.”




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