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Sam Burgess completes return to league with Souths

Published 05/11/2015

Sam Burgess has reportedly left Bath
Sam Burgess has reportedly left Bath

Sam Burgess' rugby union career is over only one year into his misjudged cross-code move after he rejoined the South Sydney Rabbitohs on a contract that expires in 2018.

Burgess won five caps for England and appeared in the recent World Cup, but he has sought a return to league and his wish was granted after a transfer fee was agreed between Bath and Souths for the two seasons outstanding on his contract.

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

As recently as Wednesday Bath, who are understood to have been demanding a transfer fee of £750,000, had declared that Burgess would spend the next two years at the Recreation Ground and that there had been no approaches for him from league clubs.

Head coach Mike Ford even stated that Burgess - who was known to have grown disillusioned with life as a union player - had been picked on the bench for Saturday's Premiership clash with London Irish.

But the inevitable was confirmed on Thursday night when Souths announced on their website that Burgess would rejoin brothers George and Tom at the Rabbitohs in time for the start of next year's NRL campaign.

"I must thank Bath especially for granting my release to return home to my family, who I have missed more than I could have imagined," Burgess said.

"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."

Burgess will be considered among the biggest cross-code flops in history, with England, Bath and the player himself shouldering varying degrees of blame for the failure of a move that began amid such high expectations.

Most culpable of all are England's coaching team who fast-tracked him into their World Cup squad on account of his 'aura' despite a lack of evidence that he was ready for the global stage.

He started the loss to Wales and made replacement appearances against Fiji and Australia as the hosts' campaign unravelled spectacularly, ending in failure to progress from the group stage for the first time.

He was selected as an inside centre by England despite playing his best rugby last season at blindside flanker - the position where Bath were adamant that his union future lies.

One of his strongest critics has been Will Carling, although the former Red Rose captain's observations were confined to the belief he was being promoted too quickly.

Carling wrote on Twitter: "So @SamBurgess8 has left Rugby Union. A sad end to a chapter that the England coaches handled so badly."

Upon completion of England 2015, Burgess came off the bench in the Premiership opener against Exeter before Ford decided he was jaded and needed time off to gather his thoughts.

He returned to training on Monday following a 10-day break in Spain.

England will be blamed for their determination to include Burgess in their World Cup squad in defiance of logic and the episode will surely be another nail in the coffin of Stuart Lancaster and his coaching team.

Bath were frustrated that he was unable to spend the summer learning his trade at the Recreation Ground, but their judgement in signing a player who became a big distraction and their overall handling of his exit will now be questioned.

And for a proud man who repeatedly stated during the World Cup that he was determined to succeed, while claiming to be impervious to criticism, his departure after a mere 12 months must be embarrassing.

However, he will be welcomed with open arms by England rugby league fans and Souths, the club for whom he played in 96 NRL matches, including a Clive Churchill Medal-winning performance in the victorious 2014 Grand Final.

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