Sam Burgess crosses codes to sign for Bath

Bath Rugby

Following the rumours last week, Bath has confirmed that Sam Burgess has signed a 3-year contract and will join the club for the start of next season.

Bath’s statement also assed ‘At 6ft 5in and 18st, power and strength are obvious qualities, however he is also known for his deft handling and as a strong leader.’

Burgess clearly wants to challenge for England honours in the short time before the next Rugby World Cup. He was quoted in the Rabbitohs’ statment, the NRL side he currently plays for, saying, ‘An opportunity presented itself to head back home to England and to pursue a chance to represent my country in two different sports.’

‘With 2015 being a Rugby World Cup, it was an opportunity I had to pursue and I thank the Rabbitohs for allowing me to make this move and start the next chapter in my sporting career. But all of that starts next season.’

What do you think of this move? Will he be one of the few successful converts to Rugby Union? Which position do you think he will play?

56 thoughts on “Sam Burgess crosses codes to sign for Bath

  1. In my opinion involving him in the world cup would be a big mistake. He’s a quality player and a partnership with Manu is terrifying but they would have so little time to gel as a partnership before hand. He arrives in October so that rules the Autumn Internationals out, Best case scenariou he gets fast tracked into the 6N squad but even then I don’t reckon he’d be starting. Possibly a bench spot but Lancaster has been quite conservative in that area as well (Eastmond,Watson not used on the bench, but GOODE has) so again its a doubt. Which means the only real chance he would get to prove himself would be the warm up games. In a group with Wales and Australia we cannot experiment at the last minute. Stick with 12 trees for the minute, We haven’t even seen him and Manu together yet.

  2. Once in a generation a total colossus comes on the scene that changes the dynamics of the game, Jonah Lomu was one, Sonny Boy Williamson another. Sam Burgess may not be in the same league but you never know, after a few games for Bath it will be pretty obvious and if he is as good as many believe he must be fast tracked as he could be the X factor that England need to have any chance of winning the WC.

    1. You’re right. Mind you, Lomu’s freakish combination of power and pace wouldn’t be as far from the norm now as it was 20yrs ago. SBW has pace and guile to go with his remarkable offloading ability. Folau is just a freakish athlete.

      What worries me from watching all the Burgess highlight reels on YouTube is that, although he’s mightily impressive, he doesn’t seem to display any great pace nor any deft offloading ability.

      We already have an 18st monster who can run over people (and offload) in Billy Vunipola and we already have a huge centre who can run over people and run away from them too in Tuilagi.

      So where does Burgess fit in? He can’t offload like Vunipola and he’s slower than Tuilagi.

    2. I don’t know loads about League, but I would say that Burgess is easily on a par with SBW in terms of ability and stature in the game. Difference is that SBW got to go to Toulon largely under the radar to develop his game amongst players like Wilkinson, then came into a Crusaders side playing outside Carter, followed up by playing internationally with a hugely experienced team, with world class players around him.

      Burgess however will be playing (possibly) as part of a very talented and exciting, but relatively inexperienced Bath back line, and an England team yet to fully click as an attacking force, with, if recent selections are anything to go by, unfamiliar players all around him. Plus all the pressure that the media will undoubtedly place him under. If he has half the impact SBW or Folau had in their first seasons I would be pleased.

  3. He will have a lot to learn before getting anywhere near the England side. And they will have to decide what his best position is in union. In that respect the difference between backs and forwards are quite different. We’re assuming he would play centre, but somebody with his size, power and speed could make a very good back row player.
    The question is, is this all his decision, or has a certain Mr. Farrell had something to do with this? If so maybe they are looking at a particular position to fast track him into?

    1. Well Farrell Snr went from being a world-class (legendary, even) RL forward to being a one-paced average union centre who should never have played for England.

      1. Much as I like Andy Farrell, you’re spot on. He was nowhere near England quality in the union stakes. Great hands, great vision. Place kicking was ok, but his kicking from hand and his line breaking ability were average to poor. And that was my point about where Burgess would play. Unless he developed an amazing offloading ability, or manages to up his pace considerably, I can’t see him replacing anyone already in the squad.

        1. Dazza, I agree with you but the cynic in me thinks that if you have two players, of near equal ability, then the current Eng management will always go with the Northerner and if that Northerner is also ex-RL then he is a guaranteed starter until he proves categorically he is not up to it.

          1. Like the choice between Twelvetrees and Eastmond at 12?

            Or indeed, Strettle, Ashton, Tait, Miller (all Northerners) against May, Nowell, Watson, Brown and Goode.

            Not sure your cynicism is well founded, Brighty.

            1. I think some would say that your examples partly prove me right – he gave Strettle abd Ashton an awful lot of chances. There’s also Farrel Jnr and the clearly not ready Tomkins as further examples.

              1. Some may… but not many… Strettle has not had very many chances under SL considering his premiership record, I also find it hard to see which better player Owen F has been keeping out of the side.

              2. Some will probably say that, but they would be wrong, as the fact is that sometimes he picks northerners and/or ex-league players over others. Sometimes he doesn’t.

                I suspect that David Wilson and Rob Webber would vehemently disagree with you.

        2. Farrell was very much at the end of his career however – he’d lost his pace and was struggling with injuries. Burgess is at the peak of his career and is far fitter, faster and stronger that Farrell was when he moved to union.

          It is a real blow for League to lose him as he is an exceptional player and athlete and is one of their biggest names. Some would argue that he is a better player than SBW

          Will he work in union? if he puts the necessary work in, then the answer is undoubtedly yes.

          Where will he play? Inside centre. 12Ts doesn’t come close to this guy in sheer ability. If he takes to union the way he should, a combo of Burgess / Tuilagi or Burgess / Burrell would be a sight to behold.

          1. Yeah true, Farrell was at the end of his career but he’d never had that much pace to begin with anyway.
            Also true is the fact that Burgess is far stronger/bigger/fitter but then Union has moved on, even in the last 7yrs, and the players are that bit bigger and more powerful now too.

            Hey, I’d love to see him succeed and as an England fan it would be awesome. However, I worry he’ll be stuck in at 12 and if he doesn’t have enough pace he will struggle because if someone can’t hurt you with their speed then you only(!) have to defend against their power.

            It’s gonna be fascinating to follow. Just a shame that he’s not coming ’til October.

  4. Also just read that Dan Cole is now out of the Six Nations with a neck injury. Wilson just returning from injury. Should Wilson start if fit against Ireland, or should Thomas get a chance. Personally I’m for giving Thomas a chance.

  5. For those of you who know RL, any fear in that sport that the main motivation here is the chance to play in what he clearly implies is a “real” world cup (as opposed to a “who will the Kangaroos possibly slip up against” one)?

    As for the player himself, I don’t watch enough RL to know. I think it’s an odd thing to see any Union publicly chasing a player (note, I know that Wales have been as guilty as anyone of this in the past, so this isn’t an anti English dig) like this. Agree that Farrel Snr must have been involved, but would not downplay the probable large part played by Lancaster given his preference for RL converts.

    I just think there is no way of knowing how this will turn out – The Volcano being humbled at Twickers is one of my fondest rugby memories given the press build up beforehand about him eating the Welsh backline alive. Iestyn Harris, despite being (I believe?) a top, top RL player didn’t set the world alight in Union – his desire to play 10 was a problem there. Jason Robinson was decent but no better than many other wings plying their trade in RU at the time, he just happened to be the best English option by miles so gets unduly built up. So there are successes and failures, it’s a big gamble to lash out that much cash.

    1. Was with you up until your assessment of Robinson. In my 23 years of watching rugby (God I feel old) he is one of the most exceptional players I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. A true great. Would like to know who these other wingers were you liken him to?

      1. Hah. Nice bit of trolling from Brighty

        Benjit – Brighty probably still has flashbacks from watching the 2003 RWC qtr-final when Robinson ran through what seemed to be the entire Welsh team and set up Greenwood for the try that turned the tide of the game

        1. Genuinely not trolling – I just knew that someone was going to bring up Robinson as a prime example of a fantastic RL -> RU transfer and to my mind it was a good one but not an amazing one. I said he was international RU quality but not the legend he now seems feted for being. It’s going to be impossible for us to discuss though – if you are English then he’s probably the most exciting player you have ever seen in an England shirt. I can’t join in on that as I’m on the outside. For me he was a good international class winger but even that appraisal is going to be seen as either me dissing him or disliking him, or both, cos he played for England.

          That try in RWC 2013 – mentioned it myself many times – Mike Catt. Greenwood/Catt, England’s last great centre pairing. We were winning that match, enjoying “crazy” English selections again (Mike Catt, in his prime, on the bench in a RWC qtr final), only for Woodward to finally wake up and put one of his match winners back on the pitch where he should have been in the first place.

          1. If I recall didn’t Catt only make the squad when Charlie Hodgeson got injured and SCW wanted a more expereinced fly half back up? I guess som coaches are lucky…

            Still intrigued to know which wingers of Robinson’s era or since were worthy of legend status?

            1. Shane Williams … ahem
              Rokocoko (sp?)
              Joe Roff

              are all, off the top of my head, my *subjective* assessment of players who were better than Robison. Not sure where I am going with this as I can hear the howls of derision and frantic compiling of stats now. Subjectively I would have had all of those guys in my team ahead of Robinson. Subjective is the key word here.

              Note that much like when I said Robshaw wouldn’t make the Lions we are talking at high levels already here. So by saying this I am not saying Robinson was rubbish. I’m just saying that when I think of legendary wingers I don’t think of him.

              1. Brighty, for sure, Lomu and Campese were not of Robinsons era. Not sure that Ntamack was either, and whilst the former two are truly great players, not sure that Ntamack was, or indeed Roff and Rokocoko.

                Shane Williams was for sure, and personally one of my favourites, as I would place him in the same bracket as Robinson, Lomu and Campese.

                Why? Because they all had the ability to consistently create something out of nothing. An ability that meant they stood out within their teams, and had something about them that other players could not match, or replicate.

                To change tack a little – it is often forgotten that Robinson was not an immediate success in Rugby Union. He had an earlier spell with Bath which was notable for its lack of success, along with the “great” (I think) Gary Connolly.

                Like Chris Ashton (and whatever we think of him, he was an excellent international wing for a spell), it took him time to get used to the game.

                I believe the one player who seems to have had a quick positive impact on the game (apart from the freakish Israel Folau) is Kyle Eastmond.

      2. Robinson won his first full cap in the 2001 6N, ended up a starting lions player, and try scorer later that year. Scored 30 test tries in 50 something games, including 1 try in a world cup final, and was one of only 4 English players to start both the 2003 and 2007 finals. Also captained Sale to premiership title in 2006.

        Pretty sure Shane Williams had a better strike rate than Robinson, and was also a Lions test try scorer, as well as scoring many other memorable and important tries in his time. Not trying to compare, both would be considered exceptional players in my opinion.

        What makes Robinson the best for me is entirely personal. I was the ideal impressionable age when he came onto the scene, and I don’t think a player since has come close to getting the Twickenham crowd on its feet in the way that he could.

        1. “What makes Robinson the best for me is entirely personal. I was the ideal impressionable age when he came onto the scene, and I don’t think a player since has come close to getting the Twickenham crowd on its feet in the way that he could.”

          – I can see that. I can see how exciting he was to the English. That was sort of my initial point i.e. he was head and shoulders above the other English options at that time. He got the English crowd on their feet and in my experience did it every time he got the ball because they assumed he would do something amazing with it. When you’re outside that it’s not the same.

          1. Agree with a lot of the names mentioned above. Ranking players is hugely subjective, I find it fascinating how different people’s views can be.

            Brighty, who in your view is the most successful League convert?

    2. Something that struck me recently about cross code converts is that for all the talk of the “superior skill set” of RL players I think top players that have gone from Union to League have actually done better than the other way round.

      If you look back to the likes of Martin Offiah, Jonathan Davies, Alan Tait, Scott Gibbs, Craig Innes, Frano Botica, Vai’ngaa Tuigemala etc – no-one ever wondered if they’d make it in RL. John Gallagher was the one star name who didn’t really live up to the hype but even he made a reasonable career of it in the end

      If you look at born and bred RL players who’ve really made it in Union for every Brad Thorn, SBW or Jason Robinson there’s an Andy Farrell, Chev Walker, Henry Paul or (shudder) Barrie Jon Mather.

      1. Buzz, I am pretty sure that Martin Offiah was not a very big name in Union when he went up North. Likewise, when he came back he was rather ordinary (and older).

  6. Like most people on here, would like to see how his pace compares once he starts playing union. My gut feeling is that SL is looking for insurance for Tuilagi. That’s not to say you couldn’t pair them, but I’m not sure that’s the primary motivation.

  7. As Winston Churchill once said “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” I guess I must be an optimist as I’m delighted that Lancaster obviously has him on the radar in spite of the many negative comments about Burgess on this thread

  8. As Winston Churchill once said “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” I must be an optimist as I’m delighted that Lancaster has him on the radar in spite of the many possible negatives.

  9. It’s exciting coming to all these conclusions and the what this and that for country. But how will he fair at club level with Bath. Will this propel them forward into a club to be feared?! Or will he struggle and be begging to go back to Aus. I hope he makes a massive impact as he is a true warrior a leader and a lovely humble guy. And I’m sure his father would be hugely proud of his and his brothers achievemnets

  10. I am pretty sure that despite some inferences on this board, to the contrary, it is Burgess himself who initiated this move.

    Cynics may argue that he was “encouraged” to initiate it, and they may well be right. BUT, he is taking a big risk, and I would find it very hard to imagine a scenario whereby England decide that they want to lure a player across and give him less than a year from first playing the game to appearing in a World Cup.

    Everyone knows this is a risk. It is not his pace, his strength, his passing etc which is in question, but his breakdown ability. The ability to know what to do when he is tackled, when he makes a tackle, and especially (from what I have seen of him) he technique in the tackle.

    If he started the game today, he may score tries, and make tries right from the outset, but he would be a walking penalty machine, and this is the “instinctive” technique that he has to work on, and unfortunately for all the prepping he may be doing, pre-switch, there is no way he can practice this whilst still playing RL.

    1. I’m also not afraid (as in I don’t care when the RL crowd join in to tell me RU is inferior) to say Blub that the other unproven thing about this is assuming that prowess in RL is ANY sort of indicator of RU quality. RU has come a long way since the days when pro league players could show up amateur union players for strength, fitness, awareness, focus, etc. Yes Burgess looks great in RL but I’ve not seen him do anything I wouldn’t expect from a top end rugby union player and I’ve seen plenty he doesn’t do.

      I guess the thing is that when the RFU stump up £270,000 for a transfer fee I’m expecting someone unquestionably better than their existing players – or else stump up £270,000 extra to keep those players you already have in better condition. I come back to the point I made earlier – it indicates a lack of faith in the current options when you’ll spend more on one players transfer fee than most of England’s centres earn in a year.

      1. Brighty, I think that you’re right to question the validity of RL success as a necessary barometer of success in RU. I believe we have enough examples to prove this.

        I would have to say though, that I don’t believe that this is any reflection at all, on the current England squad. Imagine for a moment, that Sam Burgess “enquires” as to the feasibility of switching to Wales RU (because of his Welsh Grand-parentage).

        Would Gatland really say; “Thanks mate but we’re pretty well stocked in the centre with Roberts, Davies, Williams and even big George”. Conjecture of course, but I suspect it would be more a case of “Sure, come and join us, and fight for your place with everyone else – it’ll keep them all on their toes”.

        As for the money – well it is well know and often quoted that the RFU have bags of it, so why not?

        They may lose it, or they may find they have one of the best players in the world on their hands, or something in between. In any case, it would be a crime not to “test it and see”.

        1. Just noticed this headline on the BBC website;

          “Wales’ Jonathan Davies is unfit to face France in the Six Nations and Ashley Beck pulls out, too, but Luke Charteris is fit.”

          If Luke Charteris is next in line…………

  11. I’m interested to see how he fits In at bath and where he plays as, to my knowledge, it hasn’t been mentioned where they intend to play him?

    Also think he must have had a little encouragement from SL/RFU as to move now specifically referencing the RWC seems convenient at the best….not long to find his feet!!!! Big gamble by England IMO as this will surely upset the guys around squad now I.e. 36

  12. All these reams about Burgess reminds me of the hype prev generated in the medya by Money Bill. Some here regard him highly. However, he was NEVER 1st choice for the ABs.

    For me it doesn’t matter whether someone comes from RL or not. Either he’ll stand up or not. Others have done ok, as already quoted, such as Billy Whizz, Israel Folau & a few from others prev from Oz like Lote Tuqiri, Wendell Sailor, Matt Rodgers etc.

    Burgess’l likely take time as anyone would to adapt, but can he change the way the England midfield operates under Lancater’s regime? That’s should be the real question for me. And does this spaek of a dearth of centres in a country with the most players in the world?

    Could be an inspired choice by SL.. or does it smack of desparation? I too recall the fiasco of Farrell Snr’s intro into the England set up. He came in at the wrong side of 30, off a long term injuey & they didn’t know if he was a loose fwd of a centre!

    That’s not to say that Burgess will fall into the same trap. It’s yet to be seen, but good on him for having a go. No pt in dying wondering.


    Btw Sonny Boy Williamson was a bluesman from Mississippi. One of my favs, altho not as a rugger player, but he sure blew 1 of the meanest harps around. Ask the Yardbirds… or what’s left of them.

    1. Don, the Farrell Snr saga was indeed muddled thinking, and it came at a time when there was generally muddled thinking around the England centres. Remember Shontayne Hape? Ayoola Erinle? Hipkiss and Allen before their time?

    2. I would love to know where people get this idea that England have the largest player base in the world. Are there statistics to back it up? If so could you provide a link.

      There is also a difference between the number of people who are registered to play rugby union (such as myself) and how many professional rugby players there are available to England ie players who play in the Aviva Premiership.

    3. Largest playing population and lack of centres well there were also English selections like ….

      Riki Flutey, Shontanye Hape, Brad Barritt, Henry Paul and Manu Samoa Tuilagi so at least this guy has some connection with England

  13. Wish I could see the look on brighty’s face when Burgess makes his boy Jamie Roberts his bitch, av some of that, bosh

  14. His best hope to play in the World Cup is at wing (assuming he has some speed to play there). Union is pretty different to league, and wing is the easiest position to play (comparatively). Plus, there is less opportunities to have to ruck or give a shoulder charge.

    Wing is also not a position of strength for England either, at least at this point.

  15. Sam will definitely be played in the centers regardless of what some pundits may think. He will probably start out at 12 (as Sonny Bill did) and use his size, strength and off-loading game to bring others into the game. He doesn’t have the pace for wing and probably not even for the 13 shirt so inside will be his best bet. It’s an interesting one as he will really have to find his feet quickly in order to gain a place in the World Cup squad. One thing is for sure though, he is a truly world class player in league and probably holds the gong of being the out and out best player in the world right now. How many of the current English Union 1st XV could you say that about?

  16. Good luck to the guy, leaving one sport at the pinnacle to take on a new challenge can’t be an easy decision.

    Impossible to predict how well he’ll do, but I’m looking forward to watching him.

  17. I have to say that if I was Joseph or Eastmond I would be wondering where I will be in the pecking order next season at Bath. I’m assuming this means Henson will be moving on as well? I appreciate that teams need bigger squads these days, but when you’re bringing in someone like Burgess, after his transition to union, Bath are hoping he will be first choice 12 or 13. Where does this leave the other guys fighting for a centre spot?

    1. Im guessing as Bath are doing better and they are getting increased representation in the EPS, its an insurance policy. Combined with the frequency of injury to players, I reckon they want to ensure they always have 2 decent centres available. When everyone is available guessing Joseph may get some wing time…

  18. Blub

    I recall most of same, but IMO it’s also to do with the coaching, or lack of, rather than just the players being ‘b4 their time’.

  19. the only players that come from league and work are backs mostly wingers.??

    what good is it being skillful and offloading if you don’t play that way??? england don’t play that way….

    do england play the same way as AB??? NO

    so it will be different for burgess than SBW. burgess will do same job as every other centre england have. tho he may have to curb his high hits as tackling will be the biggest thing he will need to work on changing.

    personally if burgess is in england squad for RWC 2015 without really earning it it will do more damage to eng than good.

  20. the only players that come from league and work are backs mostly wingers.??

    what good is it being skillful and offloading if you don’t play that way??? england don’t play that way….

    do england play the same way as AB??? NO

    so it will be different for burgess than SBW. burgess will do same job as every other centre england have. tho he may have to curb his high hits as tackling will be the biggest thing he will need to work on changing.

    personally if burgess is in england squad for RWC 2015 without really earning it it will do more damage to eng than good.

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