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Former England Rugby World Cup centre Sam Burgess says that he left Rugby Union as his heart was not in it and that he felt like he was fighting a losing battle.
Burgess spent less than a year in Rugby Union and has now quit the sport and returned to Rugby League and his old team the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Speaking in a column for Britain’s Daily Mail Burgess said that “rugby league is in my heart” but added that there was an “agenda” against him and England coach Stuart Lancaster.
The 26-year-old Englishman said he wants to start a family with his Australian fiancee, Phoebe Hook, in Sydney, where his brothers George and Thomas play for the Rabbitohs and his mother teaches at a boys’ school.
“I wanted to spend the rest of my career playing the game that’s in my heart,” said Burgess, detailing the reasons behind his decision for the first time.
“Rugby League is in my heart. I’m looking forward to getting back to Sydney, where I’ll be with my family and playing for the Rabbitohs alongside my brothers again.”
Last week it was was confirmed Burgess, the man-of-the-match for the ‘Bunnies’ in their 2014 NRL Grand Final triumph, was heading back to Sydney.
Burgess quit the Rabbitohs, co-owned by Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe, for Bath in a bid to become a member of England’s rugby union World Cup squad.
He achieved that aim while playing two very different positions, with Bath seeing him as a back-row forward and England an inside centre.
The saga attracted much controversy as Burgess was rushed into the World Cup squad by England but then failed to fire as they became the first hosts to exit at the pool stage.
His move back to Australia has piled yet more pressure on under-fire England coach Stuart Lancaster, who was criticised for his handling of the star player.
“I think a lot of people outside the England camp had an agenda against both England and in some circumstances, me,” said Burgess.
“No matter what I did, I always felt that I was fighting a losing battle.
“I felt like certain people didn’t want England and Stuart Lancaster to succeed…I feel for him. It doesn’t look great in the situation as it is now, but he had no clue about this and had never promised me anything.”
Burgess won the first of his five England caps in a World Cup warm-up in August but made only one start in the Rugby World Cup.
He denied he was taking the easy route by opting out of union, and said his decision was prompted by considering his long-term future.
“Everyone is saying I’ve taken the easy option but it would have been easier to stay and play on in union,” said Burgess.
“I could have just kept playing at six (blindside flanker) for Bath, but I believe it would have taken about 18 months for me to break into the England team in that position – and my contract is up in about 18 months.”
He added: “Away from rugby, I had to weigh up, long-term, whether I wanted to be in England. My fiancee and I are hoping to start a family in the next year or two and it would be great to have our kids in Sydney where their grandparents will be around to help out.”
“I don’t have any regrets about playing union…But at the end of the day, the game just didn’t give me as much enjoyment as rugby league gives me,” Burgess said.
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