England enter today’s final Test against New Zealand with the contrasting fortunes of their converted rugby league contingent demonstrating the uncertainty that comes with switching codes.
Two days after Joel Tomkins confirmed his return to Wigan, bruised by his failure in the Red Rose jersey, Chris Ashton will end his brief but high-profile international exile against the All Blacks at Waikato Stadium.
Alongside Ashton will be another league threequarter in Kyle Eastmond, whose performance in the first Test demanded his selection for the third ahead of the under-performing Billy Twelvetrees.
Looming as a rival to Eastmond is potentially the answer to England’s ongoing midfield conundrum that has taken on greater complexity during the series – Sam Burgess.
Ashton has been the most successful English player to swap codes since Jason Robinson, but even he has suffered and triumphed in equal measure.
“I’m really happy I made the decision to come across. I’ve never looked back on it,” said Ashton. “There are times I have doubted it, of course, but you probably do that in every job. I’m glad I stuck with it and am happy to be playing union.
“Joel’s a little bit older. He had so much success in league and played it a little bit longer than me, whereas I was 20, just turning 21, so had more time to bed in.
“It’s good to see Kyle here. He was an outstanding rugby league player as well. He has an unbelievable skill set that has yet to be shown in union. ”
While question marks hung over Ashton, Tomkins and Eastmond when they headed south, Burgess’s arrival at Bath from South Sydney Rabbitohs in the autumn is being viewed with far greater certainty.
Ashton is among those who believes the 25-year-old, a possibility for England’s 2015 World Cup squad, will flourish.