Saturday 19 October 2019

Sam Burgess "didn't feel right" after World Cup as reports suggest he may quit rugby union

Sam Burgess had a poor World Cup
Sam Burgess had a poor World Cup

Bath head coach Mike Ford admits Sam Burgess "didn't quite feel right" after the World Cup, but is convinced he will remain a rugby union player.

Burgess, who has two years left on his contract with the Aviva Premiership runners-up, has taken a break in Spain to ponder his future with reports stating a return to league outfit South Sydney Rabbitohs is under serious consideration.

The 26-year-old was a controversial selection for England's World Cup squad and his presence is understood to have been a divisive issue among players due to his lack of union experience.

He has not been involved in Bath's two Premiership matches so far this season and Ford confirmed he has been given time off ahead of his expected return to the Recreation Ground on Monday.

"Last week Sam came back into training because initially that's what he wanted, but then he did and he didn't quite feel right," Ford told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

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"We decided to give him time off there and then, which means that he's gone away to get refreshed and will be back in training on November 2.

"There are no dramas here. Everyone has put two and two together, seen him sitting next to (England rugby league coach) Steve McNamara watching his brother play rugby league."

England centre's Luther Burrell (left) and Jonathan Joseph (right).
England centre's Luther Burrell (left) and Jonathan Joseph (right).

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When asked if he was 100 per cent certain that Burgess would stay at Bath, Ford said: "Yes. I've spoken to Sam many times. We've talked about him coming back to Bath, rolling up his sleeves up and playing six for us."

England were determined to take Burgess to the World Cup, dropping the more established Luther Burrell to make room for a player who they felt offered leadership and big-game experience, albeit in a different code.

Burgess was defensively solid but otherwise underwhelming on his debut against France in August, yet had done enough to be chosen ahead of Burrell. The management repeatedly stated his selection was based on the strength of his performances in training.

Other than a strong final-quarter cameo off the bench against a tiring Fiji in the opener, he was unable to make an impression on the World Cup.

He was the subject of a brutal assessment from former Ireland centre Gordon D'Arcy, who wrote in an Irish Times column that "(Burgess') naivety embarrassed those around him" and labelled him "a league convert who doesn't know how to play inside centre".

Adding to the opposition over his presence at the tournament after serving only a 10-month union apprenticeship was England's decision to use him at number 12 when he had played his best rugby for Bath as a blindside flanker.

Ford insists his union future lies in the number six jersey only.

"Sam's got a three-year contract, there are two more years left on that and this is the time when he becomes a better rugby union player," Ford said.

"Everything we've spoken about is the future, about playing well for Bath and playing in the Champions Cup.

"And then potentially getting him playing for England in the Six Nations at six and if not, then on the end of season tour to Australia.

"The plan is for him to come back to training on Monday and we can't wait to have him back."

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