Die-Hards Say Iestyn Sold Us out, but We'd Welcome Him Back Up North with Open Arms

Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales), May 9, 2004 | Go to article overview

Die-Hards Say Iestyn Sold Us out, but We'd Welcome Him Back Up North with Open Arms


Byline: By Wales on Sunday

Keiron cunningham would love to see Iestyn Harris line up alongside him in a St Helens rugby league shirt.

The rugby league superstar makes no bones of how much he rates his former Wales and Great Britain teammate.

Harris is still being linked with a big-money switch to superleague giants Bradford Bulls this summer.

Cunningham, who is rated as the best league hooker in the world, believes Harris would be welcomed with open arms up north.

'I'd have him in the St Helens team,' said Cunningham.

'I have played alongside him and against him and he is a special player.

'They don't come along very often, probably once in a generation and he is one of those players.

'Rugby league does miss him, even though some of the diehards may believe he sold the game out.

'They can say they don't want him back, but rugby league needs players like him and will always have room for players like Iestyn Harris.

'He can play centre, full-back and anywhere really. Players who can do that don't come along every day.'

Cunningham will line up for superleague giants St Helens against Wigan Warriors in the Powergen Challenge Cup final at the Millennium Stadium next weekend.

But the Wales league skipper will always be remembered as the player who turned down Welsh rugby union back in 2001.

Cunningham and Harris were both lined-up for a big-money high-profile switch to union, Harris made the switch, but Cunningham pulled out at the 11th hour and stayed in league.

The 27-year-old admits he has watched his former league teammate's career unfold in union.

And he has been impressed with the way Harris has coped with the hype and believes he still has so much to offer Wales and the Blues.

'I think Iestyn's game has really come on and there is still much more to come,' said Cunningham.

'There was a lot of pressure on him because he was being talked of as the next Barry John.

'But he has come through that and shown what he can do. I still think he can do more in union.

'Players like Iestyn and Henry Paul are special talents and they were always going to need time to adapt to a new game.

'You do have to remember they were in very good teams in rugby league and that will always make a difference.

'And rugby union is so much more technical than league. I don't think people really appreciate that.'

When Harris switched codes and signed for Cardiff, Cunningham was expected to follow suit and sign for Swansea.

But he decided against switching codes and even now he admits there is a tinge of regret of not coming to Wales.

'It's just another chapter,' said Cunningham.

'It was an 11th hour decision and sometimes I regret it and sometimes I don't.

'The downside is that it would have been a new challenge I have missed.

'The upside is that I know I am a good rugby league player and it's what I do.

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