Quinnell backs Powell to shine
Former Wales star Scott Quinnell believes Andy Powell will become a big success in rugby league after opting to follow in his footsteps.
Powell has signed a two-and-a-half year deal with Wigan Warriors, joining them from Aviva Premiership side Sale, and is set to become a dual-code international by playing for Wales in the World Cup, which is launched in Cardiff in October.
The 40-year-old Quinnell, who played 39 times for Wigan after his switch from Llanelli in 1994, said: “Andy will be fantastic for them.
“He has all the skills and the attributes to be a wonderful rugby league player. He gets across the gain-line and is dynamic.”
Quinnell played for Wales in the 1995 Rugby League World Cup and believes the Brecon-born Powell will be ready to make his mark when Wales kick off their 2013 campaign against Italy on October 26.
“He has five months and he will be fine,” he said.
“He might find it difficult going into a different environment and to understand the intricacies of rugby league.
“The hardest part is running backwards 10 metres after each tackle. But I think he will do well and Wigan will help him in every way they can.”
Powell, who went close to teaming up with Gareth Thomas at Crusaders RL, is confident he can make a successful transition from a back rower in rugby union to prop in league.
“I've never played it but I've always watched the game,” he said.
“It's not going to be easy, I know that, but it's a challenge I'm looking forward to.”
At Wigan, Powell will come under the wing of another dual-code international, Iestyn Harris, who is assistant to Shaun Wane but will be taking a special interest in the new recruit as head coach of the Welsh team.
“I played against Iestyn when I was playing for Scarlets and he was with Cardiff," said Powell.
“He's said he's going to give me a hand with the technical things and he's also spoken to me about the World Cup but for me first of all it's about getting that Wigan shirt on and trying to cement my place in the squad.”
Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan has no doubt that Powell will be suited to the 13-man game and expects him to make his Super League debut long before the end of the season.
“I am completely confident Andy can make the transition,” Lenaghan said.
“I think he has every characteristic that is right for rugby league - his raw power, his speed, his rugby ability but more particularly the fact that he wants to play rugby league.”
If Lenagan gets his way, Powell will be the first of a series of converts, reversing the recent trend of league players switching to rugby union by signing one a year for the next eight years.
Lenagan anticipates the recruitment of rugby union players to help offset the loss of some of Super League's elite talent to the NRL, where clubs are benefiting from a favourable exchange rate and a lucrative television deal that has enabled them to significantly raise the salary cap.
Lenagan is also looking to offset the drain through the development of more homegrown players by committing an extra £100,000 annually to produce at least two youngsters for the first team every year, but he does not believe the exodus to Australia should be a concern.
Sam Tomkins has already been linked with a move to New Zealand Warriors, who signed Wigan scrum-half Thomas Leuluai at the end of last season.
“I don't think he'll go to rugby union,” Lenagan said. “I think he'll go to the NRL for the challenge and I think he'll come back to Wigan afterwards.
“I don't have a problem with that. He might go next year, he might go the year after; he'll certainly go because he's achieved almost everything that he could achieve here in the UK.”
One Wigan player who will not be moving to the NRL is in-form second rower Liam Farrell, who today signed a new five-year contract.
Wigan also confirmed that former St Helens and Great Britain scrum-half Sean Long will be joining their coaching staff following his resignation as assistant coach of Salford City Reds.