The Red Rose is more experienced than most northern-hemisphere nations when it comes to embracing rugby league converts, with Eddie Jones not unopposed to players trading codes.
Jason Robinson, Chris Ashton, Luther Burrell and Sam Burgess have each represented England with differing success after starting in league, and there are sure to be others who follow the same path.
Tasmania native Jones grew up around league and appeared on Sky Sports’ coverage as St. Helens came from behind to beat Warrington 24-14 on Monday.
The England coach was asked to nominate one player from the current crop of Super League stars whom he felt could cut it if they decided to trade codes for the 15-a-side sport.
Having developed a closed friendship with Hull FC coach Brett Hodgson over the years, it was one of the Black and Whites’ most prized personnel, Jake Connor, that earned his attention:
“I spent a bit of time up at Hull and I like the full-back there, Connor,” Jones said.
“He’s a tough, skilful player and I’m sure if he got a bit fitter he could make it.”
Many league fans might take umbrage with the suggestion their stars are in any way lacking in the conditioning department compared to their union peers.
However, Jones’ grinning response was evidence enough that the comment was made in jest, also hinting at a potential future in the sport himself.
Hull fans need not panic just yet regarding Connor’s plans or the RFU potentially poaching their utility back, who has represented both England and Great Britain rugby league in recent years.
The former Huddersfield Giants star just signed a new two-year contract at MKM Stadium a fortnight ago, describing his decision as “an absolute no-brainer” to Sky Sports.
That agreement will keep Connor with his current club until at least the end of the 2023 season, the same year England will look to compete for the next Rugby World Cup in France.
As for which union stars of today could thrive in the 13-man game, Jones backed one of his front-row contingent to convert without much concern.
"Luke Cowan-Dickie would make a fantastic prop,” he predicted.
Two-time Premiership champion Cowan-Dickie looks to have moved ahead of Jamie George in England’s hooker hierarchy after excelling for Exeter Chiefs in recent years.
The 28-year-old started in two of the British and Irish Lions ’ Tests against South Africa during this summer’s tour defeat, scoring their only try in the series-opening win.
Jones is contracted as England coach until the end of the 2023 Rugby World Cup, and the 61-year-old said he himself would be open to a cross-code switch when that deal is fulfilled.
“Past the World Cup in 2023 I’m open to all offers,” Jones said.
“I grew up in a rugby league area around Redfern so I love the Rabbitohs and I love rugby league, it’s in my blood. If there was an opportunity post-World Cup then I’d certainly look at it.”
The national team coach is making the rounds with rugby’s sister sports, having also recently spent time watching Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United train on an educational mission.
Jones will hope to use this summer’s teachings when England resume action for this year’s November internationals as they host Tonga, Australia and South Africa at Twickenham.
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