| 7.6°C Belfast

Ford: Bath have driven Burgess deal


Sam Burgess is switching codes to join Bath

Sam Burgess is switching codes to join Bath

Sam Burgess is switching codes to join Bath

Bath have financed Sam Burgess' big-money transfer and will call the shots on what position he fills in rugby union, according to Mike Ford.

Head coach Ford confirmed Bath owner Bruce Craig has bankrolled Burgess' £500,000 transfer from South Sydney Rabbitohs.

The 25-year-old will move to the Recreation Ground in October at the end of the NRL season, with Ford pledging Bath will build a game plan around their "megastar" recruit.

The Rugby Football Union was rumoured to have offered financial assistance to bring Englishman Burgess across codes and continents, with an eye on his international future, but Ford said Bath have spent big and now hold all the cards.

"He's our player, Bruce has financed the deal, he's our player and we'll decide, when the time's right, where he plays, and we'll develop him the way we want," said former England coach Ford.

"It's fantastic for us. I feel this is the best place for Sam to make the transition.

"We'll figure out his best position pretty quickly, but we're quite relaxed about that for now.

"We've got some fantastic players who can play 12 here at the moment, Kyle [Eastmond], Ollie Devoto, Gavin [Henson], there are three quality players there already.

"The way you want to play the game will dictate where you put Sam.

"Obviously he's world-class, and the saga and the way we got him was pretty satisfying as well, it wasn't easy by any stretch.

"We think it's a huge signing, a major coup.

"The kid went to Australia when he was 19, nobody does that, nobody.

"I went over a couple of times, the last time I was 28. You go over a very good rugby league player from here and you're pretty average when you get there.

"There are so many good players.

"He went over as a 19-year-old and in four years has become arguably the best player in that competition: he's a megastar in the NRL.

"He wants to come to a club where he can make a huge difference.

"When I spoke to him I convinced him this was the right environment for his transfer to be as quick as possible."

Former Oldham, Castleford and Warrington half-back Ford is adamant Bath have the best strategy for helping league stars complete the notoriously tricky conversion to union.

The Bath boss revealed his son and England fly-half George Ford, and former league playmaker Eastmond, are already excitedly devising attacking patterns.

Ford said Bath are fine-tuning the methods of helping a league star convert to union, that will be ready for Burgess' autumn arrival.

"He won't be Francois Louw no matter how long he's in the game," said Ford, careful Bath do not blunt his raw ability in asking Burgess to adapt to union rules.

"He won't be a guy who steals the football on the ground and can do all that dog work.

"What he will be is Sam Burgess: he'll be able to carry, tackle, pass through the line, pass before the line, smash people, be our talisman, be our leader, be able to do all the things he's been doing for the last few years.

"There are 150 rucks in a game, 75 of those he'll be smashing someone, and the other 75 he'll probably be carrying, and smashing someone.

"So that's the exciting thing for me, to get him on the field to do what he does.

"And with George there and Kyle there, the two, they are exchanging texts and telephone calls those three at the moment, devising some sort of move or something."

Bath's coaches watched the autumn's rugby league World Cup in a bid to identify potential cross-code recruits, and Burgess emerged top of the pile.

"We didn't say, 'Right, we're going to get Sam Burgess' on a particular day, it wasn't like that," he said.

"We were looking at everybody with the potential to switch codes.

"It started off small and then it just grew and grew, and now we're sat here talking about him.

"He said he wanted to play union, to have a challenge in the future.

"I didn't realise it was going to be so soon, I didn't know exactly what he meant, but he'd said he would like to have a dig at some point."