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Sam Burgess 'probably treated a bit unfairly' in rugby union - brother Tom

Sam Burgess has been unfairly treated in rugby union, according to brother Tom, who says he's not yet made a decision on his future.

The dual-code international is due back at Bath on Monday after being given time off after the World Cup but looks set to return to league with his old club South Sydney and Tom says the 15-man code only have themselves to blame if he cuts short his stay.

"It's a big talking point at the moment," said Tom after helping England's rugby league team to a 26-12 win over New Zealand in the first Test at Hull.

"It's a big tournament I suppose and they were very upset about the outcome so they're going to talk about it for years.

"Speaking truthfully, he was probably treated a bit unfairly in my opinion and that's probably what's pushing him away at the moment.

"He's had a week or 10 days off that (Bath coach) Mike Ford gave him to refresh him a little bit mentally and he'll assess his options.

"He's not made any decision as yet, at the moment he's still with Bath."

Tom has no doubt that his brother was made a scapegoat for England's failure to reach the knock-out stages in the World Cup.

"He's new to union so that's probably why, but in my opinion - I'm not an expert on union - I don't think he did too much wrong in that World Cup," he added. "He's enjoyed the experience but he's probably just a bit over some of the stick he's been getting."

Speculation over the 26-year-old Burgess' early exit from rugby union heightened with the arrival in England of a high-ranking official from Australia's National Rugby League.

Shane Richardson, who as South Sydney chief executive finalised the team's signing of Burgess from Bradford six years ago, has flown over for the Test series between England and New Zealand and was among the crowd at the KC Stadium.

Richardson, who left Souths at the same time as Burgess to take up the role of head of strategy at the NRL, is expected to help remove the only stumbling block to Burgess' return to the 13-man code - Bath's insistence on the return of the bulk of the £500,000 they reportedly paid to the Rabbitohs only 12 months ago - although Tom insists he is on league business.

"I've just to Richo and he's not here to sign Sam, he's here as part of the International Federation," he said. "I think he's here for about a week and he's going to the London game too."

Ford admitted that Burgess "didn't quite feel right" when he initially returned from his unhappy stint with England during their World Cup campaign and Press Association Sport understands he told his former rugby league team-mates at their international with France last weekend that he has played his last match of rugby union.

A stark comparison between the almost hysterical criticism heaped on Burgess for his inability to make a bigger impact in rugby union and the idolatry he still enjoys in Sydney, where he defied a shattered cheekbone to lead them to a first premiership for 43 years, makes his return to the Rabbitohs inevitable.

Super League champions Leeds have been linked with a move for the Dewsbury-born player but Burgess clearly feels he has a loyalty to Souths after they agreed to release him early from his contract to enable him to pursue his dream in the 15-man game and also to owner Russell Crowe, the Hollywood actor who lured him to his beloved Rabbitohs six years ago and with whom he remains close friends.

Tom and twin brother George recently signed new contracts which will keep them at the club until the end of 2018 while older brother Luke plays for another Sydney club, Manly Sea Eagles, and their mother Julie lives in Sydney after emigrating to Australia four years ago.

In addition to those family ties, Burgess is known to have plans to marry his Australian girlfriend Phoebe Hook in Sydney in December which all points to a confirmed return within days.


From Belfast Telegraph