Wigan head the race for Widdop

Super League champions Wigan are favourites to sign England  back Gareth Widdop if he is released from his contract from NRL side St George Illawarra .

The Dragons skipper stated earlier this month that he wanted to return to England as he was homesick , but after talks with Dragons recruitment manager Ian Millward agreed to stay in Wollongong for the 2019 season . However the Warriors , who have plenty of salary cap space left after the departures of Sam Tomkins and John Bateman , are closely monitoring the situation and are ready to make Widdop an offer should he secure an early release  from his Dragons contract , which runs until 2021 .

Widdop was raised in Halifax , before moving to Australia in 2005 , and wants to return to the country he grew up in  . Significantly he was very coy when committing himself to the Dragons for 2019 , only stating that he’s here for the year .

Wigan are prepared to wait 12 months to land their no 1 target , but are secretly hoping a deal can be done before Super League starts at the end of January . Whilst Wigan are looking to promote players from their highly successful youth set up , they are aware that a major signing could help boost ticket sales which have been falling at Wigan and across most clubs in Super League .

Widdop has made no secret of his desire to finish his career in Super League and if the deal can’t be done this year he could become Shaun Edwards 1st signing , the legendary half is set to take the reigns at Wigan in 2020 .

Warrington and Catalans  are all said to be very interested should Widdop become available but Wigan are the favourites as they have the resources to get the deal done quickly .

The England International  denied speculation that he has an exit plan with the Dragons , he has just resumed pre season training as he aims to recover from the shoulder injury that kept him out of the 3 test series against New Zealand .

One other option for Widdop could be rugby union ,there’s no doubt clubs in the 15 man code could easily afford the 29 year olds wages and also have the lure of the 2019 World Cup in Japan . England coach Eddie Jones is short of quality cover  at full back and Widdop , who played at full back in last years Rugby League World Cup Final , could just fit the bill   . Union have history  here , having signed Sam Burgess the year before the 2015 World Cup .