Sam Burgess – Rugby League Great, Union Scapegoat
As Sam Burgess leaves Rugby Union behind and re-joins the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the NRL , His 12 months will be remembered for a number of reasons. The great hype that greeted his arrival in Rugby Union was very much over the top and probably set the tone for his time in the game.
During his year, he firstly had to learn the rules of the game in a high pressured situation of the Premiership and even though he played a few A games for Bath where he was tried in the back row and he was quite successful. Yet when England came calling he was shifted in the inside centre role and was asked to learn the game in a very technical position and every move he made was scrutinised.
Bath felt they could put Burgess in whatever position they saw fit, as there owner Bruce Craig had paid the transfer fee of 750,000 pounds to release him from his contract with the Rabbitohs and he then signed a 3 year deal with Bath.
From the first day he played for Bath there seemed to be confusion as to where was his best position was , He wasn’t involved with England in November 2014 but he did play for the England Saxons down in Cork in January 2015. This was the first real signal that England were serious about having him involved later in the year at the World Cup.
He was seen as a superman figure , he was christened “ Slammin Sam” straight away , this after his exploits in the NRL Grand Final that saw him finish on the winning side with a broken cheek bone. He was really on a hiding to nothing , because he had to try and learn the game on the fly without any real support from either Bath or the RFU who were singing from two different hymn sheets from the off.
You had Burgess trying to master the Blindside role while playing for Bath and he seemed to be getting to grips with the role and things looked up until he played for the Saxons and came on for the last 20 minutes down in Cork in the centre and seemed to cope alright. He played against Leinster in the Aviva Stadium and had his best game in Union on the Blindside Flank.
He was selected in the extended squad for the World Cup that comprised of 50 players including Danny Cipriani who was exiled from the England set up since 2008. The squad went to Denver for warm weather training and reports suggested that Burgess was coping well with the demands being placed on him.
He was eventually selected in the 31 man squad ahead of the likes of Luther Burrell and Kyle Eastmond. This selection caused people to question Stuart Lancaster and his coaching team. People forget that Sam Burgess is not the first League player to make the cross over and play Union. In 2001 Jason Robinson did it and won the World Cup in 2003 and was in the squad that made the 2007 decider , Andy Farrell crossed over and made the 2007 squad , Ireland had their own cross over star Brian Carney made the move from the NRL and joined up with Munster .
He like Burgess came to Union with a big reputation and after a season in Union, his feats in Rugby League seem to have been forgotten about. It just goes to show that whatever you achieve in another sport it is quickly forgotten by those who only want to see success.
To Sam Burgess , thanks for the memories and go back to Rugby League and enjoy being at the top of that sport because no matter what you did in Union it was never going to be enough. He is one of the best ever Rugby League players and now back in Sydney with his brothers Tom and George he can get back to becoming a legend of the game in Rugby League that is !!
Cian Mc Gibney