The Australian sporting news cycles were dominated late last week by speculation about a ‘hybrid’ match between rugby union overlords the All Blacks and rugby league’s international benchmark the Kangaroos.
Although it would undoubtedly be a cash-making bonanza, it seems far-fetched and you’d struggle to find a purist in either code that would be genuinely excited about the dominant teams in the rival codes locking horns.
But it wouldn’t be the first time union and league teams have met on the field.
England clubs Wigan (rugby league) and Bath (rugby union) staged an audacious cross-code challenge in 1996, playing two games – one under each game’s rules.
The teams met under 13-a-side conditions first in Manchester, and Wigan romped to an 82-6 win in front of 20,148 curious supporters. Martin Offiah – ironically a union convert – scored six of Wigan’s 16 tries, while fellow superstars Jason Robinson and Henry Paul made their way onto a lopsided scoresheet.
The Shaun Edwards-led Wigan line-up also included Kris Radlinski, former All Black Va’aiga Tuigamala, Garry Connolly and Andy Farrell.
Mike Catt, captain Phil de Glanville and forwards Andy Robinson and Steve Ojomoh were Bath’s star attractions, while former England Test rep Jon Callard scored their sole four-pointer.
Prior to the return clash, Wigan sent a team to the prestigious Middlesex Sevens rugby union tournament and duly won it, defeating Wasps in the final.
But Bath turned the tables on Wigan under union rules, though their win in front of 42,000 supporters at Twickenham was not quite as emphatic.
Bath scored seven tries to three in a 44-19 result.
“A lot quicker than it looks from the sidelines, this union business,” said Craig Murdock, who scored two of Wigan’s tries.
A similar concept took place in 2003 between union heavyweights Sale and Super League giants St Helens, with one half played under union rules and the other under league rules.
Sale led 41-0 after a first half played under union rules, before hanging on 41-39 as the Saints stormed back under league rules.