Hape tips Eastmond for union success
February 18, 2011
England and St Helens scrum-half Kyle Eastmond is yet to confirm whether he will switch codes or commit his future to rugby league © Getty Images
England centre Shontayne Hape is convinced St Helens scrum-half Kyle Eastmond would be a hit in rugby union if he opted to make the switch from the 13-man code.
The 21-year-old Eastmond is yet to officially announce whether he will follow the likes of England wing Chris Ashton by moving to union but Hape - himself a former New Zealand rugby league star - has backed him to become a dual international.
Eastmond is a target for Bath and he met with Hape on a recent visit to the Recreation Ground where he made the youngster aware that not every convert has been as unqualified success, with the likes of Henry Paul and Lesley Vainikolo both failing to match the hype that accompanied their moves.
"Kyle has got everything going for him. There is no reason he can't be a great success," said Hape. "Everyone compares him with Jason Robinson because he is a similar type of player. Who knows, this time next year Kyle could be the one sitting here being interviewed in the England camp."
With Sale Sharks also interested, Eastmond would have to sever his north-west ties if he opted for a move to Bath. Hape's own contract expires in the summer and could be on his way out of The Rec, with London Irish reportedly interested.
Despite that, Hape believes Bath - the club that plucked him from the Bradford Bulls and turned him into a union international - would be the best destination for Eastmond. "Bath have a good track record of guys coming down. Jason Robinson was there and Kyle is a great talent," said Hape.
"I spoke to him when he came down to Bath, I said it wouldn't be easy and the most important thing is you have to start over again. You can't come across and think you are something special. You have to start from the bottom and work his way up.
"The old rugby heads will think 'who is this guy, who does he think he is?' You have to be humble, earn the respect of his team-mates and coaches. I think he understands that and has a good head on him."
Hape believes the impact Ashton has made on the international scene, scoring nine tries in his first nine Tests, will encourage more rugby league players to make the switch. Ashton has broken both club and international records since moving from Wigan to Northampton in 2007.
His four-try haul against Italy last weekend, the first by an Englishman in the Five or Six Nations since 1914, brought Twickenham to its feet. "I do think a lot more youngsters are looking to union," Hape said. "Globally it is on a bigger scale. Rugby league is an awesome game but, internationally, playing at Twickenham in front of 80,000 is the best feeling. I am sure all these guys are wanting to experience the same thing."
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