Sale Sharks’ British & Irish Lions No 8 Andy Powell is reportedly ready to turn his back on rugby union in favour of a switch to rugby league.
The 2009 tourist, who made five appearances for Britain and Ireland’s elite in South Africa four years ago but was beaten to a Test spot by Jamie Heaslip, is being heavily linked with a move to Wigan Warriors.
Powell’s current contract with Sale Sharks runs out at the end of the season and, according to the Mail on Sunday, the 31-year-old is close to agreeing a cross-code jump to the Super League giants.
The former London Wasps, Cardiff Blues, Leicester Tigers and Newport back rower won the last of his 23 Welsh caps in the spring of 2012 and is unlikely to regain his starting spot given the form of incumbent No8 Toby Faletau.
Powell was previously linked with a transfer to the 13-man code back in 2010 but he turned down the chance to sign for Welsh outfit the Crusaders while he was still with the Blues.
Wigan assistant coach and Wales boss Iestyn Harris has since played down the rumours but there has as yet been no official comment from Sale Sharks or from Powell’s agent.
"I don't know anything about that. It would be great for Wales but as for him coming to Wigan I don't know anything," said Harris.
While the move has yet to be confirmed by either party, the Manchester Evening News are now claiming that Powell is all set to sign a three year deal and will begin his league career playing prop.
If Powell does head ‘north’ it would buck a significant trend in which players have left league for union in recent seasons.
Whereas in the amateur era it was common for stars of the 15-man sport to take the cash on offer in league, the advent of professionalism has seen that exodus reversed, with a whole host of star names swapping their game for ours.
The likes of Lions assistant coach Andy Farrell and Saracens duo Chris Ashton and Joel Tomkins are among the high-profile additions to union, while former Wigan back Jason Robinson starred for the Lions in Australia in 2001 and 2005.
The last victorious pride of Lions included six league converts in their ranks, with John Bentley, Alan Tait, Allan Bateman, Dai Young, Scott Quinnell and Scott Gibbs all having played professionally before the 1997 tour of South Africa.