Hape signs for London Irish


Rugby:England centre Shontayne Hape has signed a two-year contract with Premiership club London Irish. The former Bradford Bulls rugby league star will join the Exiles from Bath at the end of this season.

Hape (29) has won eight England caps and is set to feature in Saturday’s Six Nations clash against France at Twickenham.

New Zealand-born Hape qualifies to play for England on residency grounds, and he forced his way into Martin Johnson’s plans with a series of impressive performances in Bath colours.

But a move to Irish had been trailed for some time, and Bath’s recent recruitment of centre Dan Hipkiss from Leicester did nothing to quell speculation.

Hape has so far scored six tries in 58 appearances for Bath, the club he joined from Bradford in 2008. Hape spent six seasons with the Bulls and also won international rugby league honours with New Zealand.

He made his England debut on tour in Australia last summer, and played throughout this season’s autumn Test series before retaining his place for the Six Nations appointments with Wales and Italy.

Hape’s arrival at Irish is set to see him fill the midfield vacancy created by Samoan Seilala Mapusua, who will play his club rugby in Japan next term.

Irish head coach Toby Booth said: “Shontayne is a player I have been very impressed with since his move to rugby union.

“He is physically very intimidating, and his ability to off-load out of the tackle will trouble any defence. We have a lot of young talent coming through the club, and the experience that Shontayne brings will also help them to develop further.”