Burgess leaves Bath and returns to Rugby League in Sydney

Sam Burgess has left Bath and will return to Sydney

England rugby union international Sam Burgess has left Premiership club Bath with immediate effect in order to return to rugby league side South Sydney Rabbitohs.

The BBC broke the news initially and it has now been confirmed by the Rabbitohs that Burgess has signed with the Sydney club until at least the end of the 2018 season.

Burgess was part of the England Rugby World Cup squad and his inclusion saw coach Stuart Lancaster criticised for what many saw as the overly rapid promotion of the Bath man into the Test side.

The player’s exit is likely to prove highly embarrassing for both Bath and Lancaster, whose position as England coach is currently being scrutinised as part of a Rugby Football Union review into the team’s woeful World Cup campaign.

The news comes just one day after Bath owner Bruce Craig insisted that Burgess would be seeing out the remainder of his contract.

“Sam is with us for the next two years and is under contract,” said Craig, who answered “no” when asked if Burgess had asked to leave.

“No one has come in for Sam. At the moment he’s with us and is in our (European) Champions Cup squad. We’re not in negotiations with anyone.”

Bath coach Mike Ford also insisted last week that Burgess was staying at the Recreation Ground.

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

Burgess’s selection for the England rugby union side was all the more controversial as despite Bath’s preference for playing him as a flank forward, Lancaster deployed him in the back-line position of inside centre.

The former Rugby League star’s term in Rugby Union is now over and Rabbitohs Head Coach Michael Maguire says that he delighted to see Sam returning to his Australian home.

“I could not be happier to see Sam coming home to the Rabbitohs,” Coach Maguire said.

“He had an enormously positive impact on our Club, both on and off the field, throughout the five seasons he was here, and to be bringing back one of the game’s most dominant players is fantastic for not only our Club, but the game itself.

“He will add starch to our forward pack, and he will bring his leadership qualities to the team as well.

“He wanted to test himself in Rugby Union and he achieved many of his goals, becoming a dual International for England and representing his country at a Rugby World Cup.

“The next chapter is for him to return to the game he was born to play, and we’re over the moon that he is coming home to do that with his Rabbitohs family here at South Sydney.”

Burgess said he was grateful to England Rugby and Bath for his experience in Rugby Union and is now looking forward to getting stuck into training alongside his Rabbitohs teammates.

“I want to thank everyone at England Rugby and Bath for some great memories over the last 12 months,” Burgess said.

“I must also thank Bath especially for granting my release to return home to my family who I have missed more than I could have imagined.

“I am also extremely excited to be joining back up with South Sydney. I cannot wait to get back into the Rabbitohs culture, full of great people and passionate Members and supporters.

“I had a wonderful time in England and learnt a lot about the game of Rugby Union as both a back and a forward, and I have definitely developed as an all-round player and athlete after that.

“I’m now very lucky to be given the chance to come back to Souths and serve this Club and its Members.

“I look forward to getting stuck into training with all the boys and working hard for the upcoming season.”

A statement from Bath said that,”The Club has remained committed to Burgess’s ongoing development as a rugby union player since his move to the West Country, but now recognises that, for personal reasons, he no longer sees his future in the 15-man game. “

“Having settled on agreeable terms within the last 24 hours, Bath Rugby are therefore releasing Burgess with immediate effect.

Bath Rugby Head Coach Mike Ford said,”We hoped that Sam would stay at Bath. He was doing really well in making the switch over from league and, given time, he could’ve been a great rugby union player. Unfortunately, for personal reasons, he is returning to Australia.

“However, we’re fortunate that we’ve got some very high calibre players here at the Club, and with a big run of games coming up in the Aviva Premiership and the European Rugby Champions Cup, we’ll be fully focused on these.”

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