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Manu Tuilagi could have switched to Super League earlier this year with Warrington Wolves

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Manu Tuilagi remains a major target for Toronto Wolfpack but the Leicester Tigers centre could have moved to Super League earlier this year with Warrington Wolves.

Samoa-born Tuilagi agreed a new deal at Welford Road in March which ties him to the Premiership giants until June 2021.

Among his options was a cross-code switch to big-spending Warrington but Steve Price’s side instead signed another rugby union centre in Luther Burrell from Northampton.

Following the high-profile capture of Sonny Bill Williams on a lucrative two-year deal, ambitious Toronto will seek to add more high-profile signings, with Tuilagi top of their list as revealed by Telegraph Sport.

Warrington chief executive Karl Fitzpatrick said: “When Manu was assessing his options before re-signing at Leicester, we were asked if we would be interested and said ‘yes, definitely’.

“He’s certainly got the skill set to cross over and make a successful transition to league; he could have played centre or back row for us.

“I’ve no doubt he would have played rugby league at some point as a kid growing up and we wanted to have a shot at signing him. 

“At the time, it was the Six Nations, and things went quiet. The next thing I heard was that he had signed an extension at Leicester so the deal was off the table.

“But if any player from rugby union becomes available who we think can successfully cross over to rugby league, then we will have a crack at signing them. When it didn’t happen with Manu, we signed Luther Burrell.”

Super League rules exist which allow clubs with sufficient funds to bring in players from outside rugby league without it impacting on the wage cap.

Burrell crossed codes to join Warrington earlier this year and Hull FC signed Fijian winger Ratu Naulago, a private in the British Army, along similar lines.

Fitzpatrick added: “The talent pool dispensation rule allows us to attract rugby union players who have maybe not played rugby league before and I don’t think Super League clubs have exploited it as well as they could have.

“Hull did it with Naulago, who has been a big success story, and we are hopeful of Luther breaking through this season.

“Bringing in union players comes at a price – you look at the figures being bandied around for what Sonny Bill Williams is being paid by Toronto – but if there is a player out there who can add to our squad, we will certainly be in the mix to sign them.”

Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, applauded Toronto’s capture of Williams, adding: “It’s absolutely sensational for Super League and we’re rubbing our hands.

“It’s a massive boost for the game and something that all clubs – and Super League as a whole – needs to maximise, not just Toronto.

“We play Toronto in our second home game of the season and are already looking at ways of capitalising on Sonny Bill Williams playing at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.

“As a sportsman, he transcends our game and breaks us out of this rugby league bubble, which we are desperate to do.

“But as a club we don’t want to get left behind and will continue to scour the market for the best talent in both codes. We want to be at the front of the queue.”

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