Door closed on Kevin Locke as SRU drops pursuit

Kiwi league internationalist Kevin Locke will not be moving to rugby union in Scotland. Picture: Getty

Kiwi league internationalist Kevin Locke will not be moving to rugby union in Scotland. Picture: Getty

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THE Scottish Rugby Union has dropped its interest in luring New Zealand rugby league internationalist Kevin Locke from Super League side Salford City Reds.

Last week it emerged that the SRU was pursuing an interest in signing the 25-year-old full-back after being given permission to talk to the player by the Salford owner Marwan Koukash.

However, it was confirmed yesterday that Locke, who was believed to be Scottish-qualified through his father, would not be switching codes and moving north.

An SRU spokesperson said: “Scottish Rugby was invited to speak to Kevin Locke by Salford City Reds.

“After an initial meeting there has been no further contact with the player.

“As such Scottish Rugby will not be pursuing further talks and has ended its interest in Kevin.

“We would like to thank Salford City Reds for their co-operation in this matter.”

It is believed the player met with SRU officials last week but at the weekend he took to Twitter to assure Salford fans he was staying put.

“The only thing that’s happened with SRU is that we met for a meeting that’s it,” he told one, and revealed to another: “I’ll be honest I met with SRU but was a chat. And if I was going I’d be gone already.”

Cross-code switches are fairly common in Australia, New Zealand and, to a lesser extent, England, where Sam Burgess is the latest high-profile league recruit looking to make it in international union, with a place in the World Cup the primary allure.

Alan Tait is the most famous Scottish cross-coder, although he started in union with Kelso and Scotland before enjoying great success in the then professional code prior to returning to the 15-a-side game.

Prop George Graham also left Stirling County for Carlisle Border Raiders in the early 1990s before returning to win 25 caps for Scotland.

More recently, during Matt Williams’ time as Scotland coach, Ben MacDougall was recruited from Australian rugby league. The centre played for Edinburgh and then the Border Reivers but only made two appearances for the national side in 2006.

Locke, who played for New Zealand in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, including appearances against Scotland in the quarter-finals and Australia in the final, moved from NRL side New Zealand Warriors to Salford last year. He is currently sidelined with a groin injury.

The SRU is looking for back up and/or competition for the incumbent full-back Stuart Hogg. Scottish rugby does not boast a lot of depth and Hogg has almost no challengers for the national No 15 jersey.

In Peter Horne, Scotland were down to what was probably their fourth-choice stand-off against Italy at BT Murrayfield on Saturday. If Hogg were injured his place would probably be taken by a winger, either Tommy Seymour or Sean Maitland, rather than a specialist full-back.

After being given the cold shoulder by the Kiwi league player, the search goes on.

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