WARRIORS have made a shock swoop of the rugby union ranks to sign centre Iain Thornley.
The former Wigan junior has returned to his home-town club on a three-and-a-half year deal after leaving Premiership outfit Sale Sharks.
But the 20-year-old will not be in the frame to make his debut in Saturday’s Cup quarter-final against St Helens because he is on holiday, which was booked before Wigan made an approach.
Warriors rugby general manager Kris Radlinski said: “He has made a brave choice in returning to rugby league and the Warriors as he was impressing many people in union.
“We were disappointed that Iain chose to leave us two years ago but understood his reasoning.
“We made sure it was an amicable departure since we always felt that one day he may wish to return. He is a terrific athlete who can play both in the back-row and in the centre.”
Thornley, who played in the same Wigan St Pat’s junior side as Stefan Marsh and Owen Farrell, joined Sale in 2010 and spent parts of last season on loan with Leeds Carnegie.
“This is a great opportunity for me and I am thrilled to be given the chance to return to the Wigan Warriors,” he said.
“It is nice to know that the club continued to follow my progress after my departure and it is my aim to pay Wigan back by working hard, earning a place in the side and playing to the best of my ability.
“I am really looking forward to being a part again of this great club.”
Thornley – whose agent is ex-Warriors coach Frank Endacott – spent a season under Shaun Wane when he was in the Warriors’ Under-21s set-up.
It is believed Wigan moved to recruit him after having some cash freed up under the salary cap limit by the retirement of Amos Roberts. Thornley will provide cover for centres Darrell Goulding and George Carmont.
Meanwhile, St Helens coach Mike Rush is taking a leaf out of Wane’s book in motivating his players for Saturday’s game.
Rush said: “Perhaps it’s my job this week to do a bit of a Shaun Wane and keep reminding people that we aren’t that keen on them. He likes to make the point that they’re not keen on us, well the feeling is mutual.”
The referee on Saturday is Richard Silverwood.