England rugby plan to fast-track NZ-born Ben Te'o

Ben Te'o played for the Rabbitohs, Fiji and Queensland before heading to England to play rugby union. Photo / Getty
Ben Te'o played for the Rabbitohs, Fiji and Queensland before heading to England to play rugby union. Photo / Getty

England are ready to fast-track another rugby league convert into their squad this summer after being advised that he can make a bigger impact in union than his former team-mate in Australia, Sam Burgess.

Ben Te'o is joining Worcester from Irish province Leinster at the end of this season, as a means of furthering his ambition to wear the Red Rose at Test level.

It is understood that the 29-year-old, who was born in Auckland, New Zealand and represented Fiji and Queensland in the 13-man code, has been in regular contact with Eddie Jones, the national coach - expressing his determination to earn a prompt call-up.

Trusted contacts in league have told the England coaches that Te'o has the potential to be an explosive asset in midfield, as a player with a similar gainline-busting, off-loading repertoire to Manu Tuilagi and Burgess, who he played alongside when the South Sydney Rabbitohs won the NRL title in 2014.

The Daily Mail has learned that he is seen as a viable candidate for the 2019 World Cup and the plan is to integrate him into the Test set-up at the earliest opportunity.

Teo's mother was born and raised in England, which means that he does not have to qualify on residency. However, he was not considered for a call-up in the immediate aftermath of switching to union, as his decision to sign for Leinster meant he could not be picked due to the RFU's stance against selecting players based abroad. He also broke his arm on his first appearance for the Dublin side.

Burgess is a friend and admirer of the powerful centre, who weighs 16-and-a-half stone and is seen as an international prospect at No 12. 'He is an amazing athlete, very aggressive and focused on his role,' said the ex-Bath player, who returned to the Rabbitohs late last year. 'He is hard-working and selfless.'

It was announced in December that Te'o would join Worcester at the end of the current campaign. Prior to his plans being revealed, he had said: 'I know I've got a lot of options. I'd love to play international rugby. I'm not sure for who, but I'd love to play it. I want to test myself and I love to play in the biggest games, so that's something that will factor into my decision.'

In fact, he has had his sights on an England place since deciding to cross codes. Sources close to the player have revealed that Te'o's agent made contact with the previous Red Rose management when he was close to agreeing the deal with Leinster, as he was also being pursued by an English club and a French club.

The agent and Te'o himself were informed that, by playing in Ireland, who would not be available for England - a fact that they appeared unaware of.

The deal with Leinster went ahead anyway but last summer Te'o was planning his next move and was weighing up the option of signing for London Irish. Both the club and the player were informed that if the move went ahead, he would be on England's radar.

After the World Cup, Te'o was left to decide between the Exiles, Worcester, a French club (thought to be Toulon) and offers to return to league in Australia.

Sources have suggested that he had a conversation with Stuart Lancaster - who was in the midst of the turbulent, post-tournament fall-out - and was encouraged to pursue opportunities in England, with the possibility of Test caps on the horizon. In theory, he could have also represented New Zealand, Samoa or Ireland - from November.

The up-shot is that Jones will benefit from the emergence of another forceful midfield candidate, thanks in part to the input of his predecessor. Te'o will be considered for early inclusion in the senior national squad, along with another Polynesian recruit, Wasps No 8 Nathan Hughes - who qualifies on residency at the end of June. They are destined to join Tuilagi, from Samoa, the Anglo-Tongan brothers Billy and Mako Vunipola and Fijian wing Semesa Rokoduguni.

- Daily Mail

- Daily Mail

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