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My Life in Rugby: Sean Long – Preston fly-half and Rugby League legend

Sean LongI had a meeting with Clive Woodward in 2002 at Manchester Airport, he wanted me to switch from rugby league to union and he told me ‘you have to move over’.

He saw me as a scrum-half, I wanted to play fly-half, but I guess he knew what he was talking about. The plan was to send me out to whichever club I saw fit really, whether it was Sale or whoever was struggling, I was really up for it and I’m still gutted that it never happened.

The problem was I had three years to go on my St Helens contract and it was impossible to get out of – it just came at the wrong time. I could theoretically have been a 2003 World Cup winner had things happened differently.

I should have switched codes in my early 20s if I’m honest, I was at the top of my game and the likes of Jason Robinson and Iestyn Harris had moved and were doing really well.

Then in 2007 I came within a centimetre of signing for Sale. I think Jason Robinson was just about to hang up his boots, and the opportunity was there for me and I really wanted to do it. It was done and dusted as far as I was concerned but they signed Luke McAlister instead, I was gutted to say the least.

I’m glad I finally made the move last year and the reason for joining Preston is not to become a Championship player, it’s just to get my boots on again.

I’m still not used to all the rules and the ins and outs of the game but Preston have been good to me. It’s a great set-up and it challenges my brain all the time.

But I am still assistant coach at Salford City Reds in the Super League as well and I find it bizarre really – I’m playing one form of rugby and teaching the lads there another.

I would like to think the stuff I do in my rugby league; the attacking drills, the skills and such like, I can bring to rugby union.

As much as I’m enjoying my time at Salford the way everything is going I see my future being in union.

A lot of union coaches have come from league and they have done really well, and I’m not sure about the state of rugby league with what’s happened to Bradford Bulls going into administration recently.

I’ve watched union for a long time, but it’s not a popular sport in Wigan. The only club was Aspull but I’d started playing rugby league at the age of seven so didn’t think about a career in union.

I achieved everything I wanted to in league: I won two World Club titles, five Challenge Cups, four Grand Finals, three Lance Todd trophies and a Man of Steel award.

I played in a top St Helens side and it will be a long time before one comes along like it.

I think the one moment where I thought ‘this can’t be topped’ was beating Brisbane Broncos in the 2007 World Club Challenge.

The NRL is the best in the world and we turned them over that day, it was the pinnacle of my career.

I’ve also done some stupid things in my career. I was naive betting on my own side to lose in 2004 when we rested ten players, and I probably still have that hanging over me – you have regrets and you learn from them.

But I went on to play the best rugby of my career in the build up to my three-month ban. I’ve always loved adversity. I’ve always had people knocking me but I get a real buzz out of it.

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