Willie Mason switches from league to union with Toulon

Willie Mason
Mason admits he has a lot to learn if he is to succeed at Toulon

Willie Mason has switched codes by joining French Top 14 side Toulon 24 hours after Hull KR cut their ties with the controversial Australian forward.

The former Kangaroos international was released by Rovers just six months into a three-year contract.

Mason, 31, has signed a one-year deal at big-spending Toulon with an option for another.

"I'm just so excited and I'm looking forward to the challenge," he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Mason made only six Super League appearances for Hull KR before the club lost patience with the wayward star.

Rovers stopped paying his wages, citing a breach of contract after discovering the player had travelled to France to have talks with Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal without their knowledge.

Auckland-born Mason, who won 24 caps with the Kangaroos, is following in the footsteps of another controversial former NRL star, Sonny Bill Williams, who walked out on Canterbury Bulldogs in 2008 to join Toulon.

Although he has never played union, Mason has revealed he is set to play for the Barbarians against England at Twickenham next Sunday and against Wales at the Millennium Stadium on 4 June.

"I've certainly jumped in the deep end in agreeing to play for the Barbarians without having any rugby union experience," he said.

"I've just got to learn how to play union in a hurry and how to speak French because I don't know a word yet and they say it's not that easy to pick up."

Hull KR announced the capture of Mason last September after fighting off competition from Huddersfield.

However, their signing of one of league's biggest names soon turned sour.

Mason was expected to arrive in England on the Tongan passport which would have made him a non-overseas player.

However, with continuing delays meaning he missed the start of the season, Rovers flew the former Australia and New South Wales star into England on his New Zealand passport.

It meant the club had to de-register Australian scrum-half Michael Dobson, who was recovering from ankle surgery, in order for Mason to play as one of Rovers' five quota players.

He made an immediate impact with a man-of-the-match display on his debut in Rovers' 40-22 win over Crusaders but his form quickly deserted him and he was de-registered a month ago to facilitate the return of a fit-again Dobson.

Rovers have been investigating claims that Mason may have even discussed a deal with Toulon after he had signed for them but before he arrived in the UK.

Mason, who rejected the chance to join Bradford on loan, reportedly met Boudjellal for a second time on Friday to complete the deal.

He joins a foreign contingent at Toulon which also includes Jonny Wilkinson, Joe van Niekerk, Carl Hayman and Gavin Henson.