Clash of the Codes: A modern-day rugby union XIII to play league

With Sky Sports re-running the ‘Clash of the Codes’ matches between Wigan and Bath on Friday, we try to imagine what the teams would look like if a similar match were to take place today.

First up, we have put together a XIII of rugby union players who we think would be more than a match for their league counterparts.

We have trawled the globe to bring together this all-star team and you can see who made it into our side below…

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What attributes does a rugby league full-back need? Much like in union, they need to be strong under the high ball and be able to swiftly turn defence into attack with incisive running.

That is why we have chosen Kurtley Beale to play in this position – a man who played the 13-man code at junior level in his native New South Wales before going on to become a union star for Australia.


Again, it is fairly easy for wingers to make the transition between codes as their roles do not change much. Being able to make metres quickly and knowing where the try-line is are valuable attributes for both.

So we believe England wide-man Jonny May and Welsh flyer Josh Adams would be dangerous on both flanks, particularly with more room to run thanks to the defence having to be back 10 metres at the play-the-ball.


We have gone for power and strength in the three-quarters for our rugby union XIII, allied to a bit of skill and the ability to bring others into match.

With that in mind, it is hard-running Australian centre Tevita Kuridrani and blockbusting England star Manu Tuilagi who take the centre berths in this side.


The stand-off and scrum-half roles in rugby league are not as specialised as fly-half and scrum-half in rugby union, but they still need the ability to control the match and direct their team around the park.

We have chosen All Blacks star Richie Mo’unga in the stand-off role, where his running threat and kicking game would prove invaluable, and wily Australia international Will Genia at scrum-half where he can exploit space with his darting runs.

Front row

Here is where things get interesting because with there being less emphasis on the dark arts of scrummaging in league, the prop and hooker positions have taken on a different dimension.

With the big men usually getting the ball early in a set of six tackles, we have picked England wrecking ball Billy Vunipola as one of our props – making a similar switch from No. 8 to the front row that Scott Quinnell did when he switched from union to league.

He is joined by another England player, Kyle Sinckler, who has proven himself equally effective in the loose for both club and country.

The rugby league hooker is usually there to get the ball away after a tackle, much like a rugby union scrum-half, so we see South Africa’s Cobus Reinach – with his darts from the base of rucks and running ability – would be perfect for this role.

Back row

As with the props, the second rows will need to be able to get over the gain line along with being able to contribute in defence.

That is why we have chosen two players who can do both equally well in England international Maro Itoje and New Zealand lock Brodie Retallick.

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