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Ford has big plans for Burgess

Sam Burgess will start his Bath career in the centres, but head coach Mike Ford still expects him to excel in the back-row.

South Sydney Rabbitohs star Burgess will trade codes for rugby union in October, joining Bath in a bid to break into Stuart Lancaster's Rugby World Cup 2015 squad.

England view Burgess as a natural centre, while Bath's aim to convert him into a loose forward raised potential tensions when the West Country club completed his signing in March.

Ford believes Bath and England are now "on the same wavelength" about Burgess' transition from league to union however.

Bath footed the entire bill to buy Burgess out of his long-term South Sydney contract, rejecting any financial assistance from the Rugby Football Union.

Ford said Bath will continue to call the shots on their high-profile recruit's phased transition.

"We've got a plan for him now, but there's so many variables," said Ford ahead of Burgess' expected October arrival at Bath.

"Clearly we'll probably look at him in the centres first and foremost, let him learn the game from afar really.

"We've got a plan for him in the centres to start with, but my gut feeling is he will end up in the pack.

"Whether that will be Christmas, whether it will be Christmas 2015 who knows? He's here for a long time so we're not too worried about that.

"But if he's doing 60 plays a game in the NRL then you don't really want him playing on the wing do you, in rugby union.

"It's important that when Sam comes we get the best out of Sam and what he can do, and what his qualities are.

"So we're going to try to get those qualities out more often than not.

"They've got nothing to do with him, the RFU have got no say in his development at Bath Rugby.

"They haven't asked us to play him at centre, but clearly I've spoken to Stuart and we're on the same lines.

"He again wants Sam Burgess to be Sam Burgess.

"So we're clearly on the same lines.

"He might play at centre and brilliant, and then why would you move him?"

Bath will aim to ease the 24-year-old into rugby union when he arrives at The Recreation Ground after four years in the Australian NRL.

Former England coach Ford said wherever Burgess ends up playing, it is vital Bath make the most of his undoubted game-breaking talents.

"Jacques Burger makes 30 tackles a game, and so does Sam," said Ford.

"I remember coaching Jonny Wilkinson and I said 'I want to move you in defence, you're making too many tackles'.

"He said to me 'but making 15 tackles a game is who I am, if I don't make 15 tackles a game I'm not playing as well as I can'.

"So you've got to understand what the player wants as well.

"I'm open-minded, for the points I've just mentioned.

"Look at the NRL stats: Sam has the most carries in the competition, the most tackles in the competition, the most metres in the competition.

"You're not going to put him somewhere where he's not involved in the game.

"So you look at rugby union, where are you most involved in the game? And you've just got to figure it out."

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