Sam Burgess to switch codes in time for RWC

sam burgess

Reports in the Daily Mail are indicating that England rugby league star Sam Burgess will make a sensational code switch in time for the Rugby World Cup next year, as England look to fast track him into the squad for the sport’s showpiece event on home soil.

Burgess has reportedly agreed a deal to sign for Bath, with the transfer price allegedly in the region of an eye-watering £500,000.

The league star is contracted to the South Sydney Rabbitohs until the end of 2016, but was reportedly convinced to make the switch after talking with England coach Andy Farrell at last year’s Rugby League World Cup.

Burgess, who weighs in at 116kg and stands at 6ft 4, would add an obvious physical edge to England’s midfield – or back-row, if that’s where he ends up.

The Rabbitohs’ captain, John Sutton, said that losing Burgess would be a major blow both on and off the field.

“He is a great player. Ever since he came to Souths he has been a leader,” said Sutton. “He would be a big loss if he does go, but I don’t know anything about that.”

Would you like to see Burgess fast tracked into the England squad for the RWC?

38 thoughts on “Sam Burgess to switch codes in time for RWC

  1. If he got here for the start of the 2014/15 season he’d have to make an immediate impact to make it, but Tuilagi only burst onto the England scene after starting the 2010/11 season strongly, and he made the World Cup a year later. It’s not too late and, with Burgess more developed and already with international experience, he will be starting ahead of where Manu was when he rose to prominence in a year.

    Just because it’s a World Cup year, doesn’t mean someone who starts next season strongly can’t make it. You don’t want to be giving out a host of new caps, but if a special player becomes available then you’d be foolish to overlook him.

  2. It seems awfully late to integrate him into the Eng team.

    One question. Is he quick? Tomkins is big but so lacked in pace or cutting edge. We have big centres who have power and can break tackles (Manu), and big centres who can break and offload (Burrell). What made SBW so eye catching was that he did all of the above and had some decent gas?

    Farrell Snr seems to be all over this (wasn’t he also involved in bringing tomkins over when at Sarries). I really think he needs his wings clipped. Demote him to defence only and let’s have a backs coach with a more nuanced view of attack.

    1. I don’t think you can compare Tomkins to Burgess, absolutely different classes of player.

      I also don’t think his integration into the squad will be an issue. This guy has already played in world cups, and shone.

      My only slight issue is that, assuming he plays centre, he is a very similar player to Manu. Do we really want to go back to that?

      1. From what I’ve seen of Burgess, he’s fast, very strong and has decent hands. Not too dissimilar to SBW at all

        I doubt he would lose out to 12T in a foot race.

        Someone will have to teach him how to tackle using his arms however

    2. I don’t follow league RL, but I did watch the Eng Vs NZ QF and he looked an incredible athlete in terms of power, pace and fitness and not without skill either.

      Main point I would question is if they are spending all that money to buy him out early why wait until 2015? Odds are really stacked against him leaving it that late, but good luck to the guy (if it is confirmed).

  3. This could be brilliant. Could argue that Burgess is a bigger name in League comparatively than Jason Robinson was when he switched codes (obviously completely different players). From what I know of Burgess, which admittedly isn’t much, I doubt he will have too much difficulty making the change, or indeed stepping up to International level. Would much prefer to see him in the centres than in the back row. Centre partnership of Burgess and Tuilagi would be hugely formidable. Also the Bath back line would look very impressive with him involved.

  4. If he goes to Bath and at inside centre, where does that leave Eastmond? Would he move to Wing or Fullback maybe. Bath have just lost Abendonen?

    1. I would assume that Watson will just slot in at 15? He has done most of this season anyway.

      I’d guess that Joseph would be more in trouble that Eastmond if Burgess were to move across as well.

      1. It does pose some interesting questions. I personally really rate Eastmond, and think him and Burgess would go better in the centres than Eastmond/Joseph or Burgess/Joseph. Does anyone know if Joseph can play on the wing? Certainly seems quick enough. Eastmond played there initially but I think his footwork is more effective in the midfield than out wide.

        Either way, a dilemma of the good sort for the Bath coaching team.

        1. I think that the preference at Bath is to have ball players ordinarily at inside centre, so I would imagine that this would be more of a challenge to Joseph/Banahan, that Eastmond

  5. This thing about switching codes; it gets everybody excited every time but how many players ave had success at international level after a code switch.

    Sure there was Jason Robinson but there have been many failures, many more in my mind. Farrell himself did not manage to light up the rugby union world although he played stoically in the WC and we got to the final, that was not what he was brought in to do.

    If you are good enough then you should go of course but in my eyes he has had zero international experience and should be treated as such. He has the tools to be fantastic but so few RL Players have translated into successes on the RU park.

    The one big thing he has in his favor is our midfield is awful at the moment and has not improved in years, but hey, isn`t that why we brought in Farrell in the first place. Same problem same short term solution.

    1. Not convinced he can be taken in the same light as many others. Farrell Snr for example, came across from League at the end of his career, so was never going to make the kind of impact he had during his prime playing League.

      Other than Robinson (who went quite well in Union), there haven’t been any players to my knowledge that have come across with the experience and talent this guy has? He is still also only 25 years old.

    2. This is a recruit at the Thorn, Folau, SBW, Robinson end of the spectrum. A genuine star from the pinnacle of RL. Don’t think we should expect miracles or pile on the hope and expectation, but he’s a welcome addition to the sport in my view.

  6. Just a side note on his physicality,

    Coaches value themselves and rightly so, they see a player with speed and power and think that they can teach the rest. On the other hand they see a small player with natural footballing skills and the ability to read space and they think he is great but I can’t teach him to be 100 kilos.

    I as a basketball coach was obsessed with height as it is a crucial advantage and not a learned skill. I however learned with time that reading a game and judging space are also not a learned skill. People have to accept that cerebral talents are also unchangeable abilities. Some people are good at maths and some at English and even if one can develop these abilities they are fixed to a great degree.

    It is time coaches started to change their mentalities. When they see a player constantly running, passing and kicking the ball into space they have to think that a coach can put him in the gym and add an extra 10 kilos but he cannot teach the ability to judge space.

    This is fundamental ignorance amongst coaches through the entire system has led to the catastrophe that is the England midfield.

    Warren Gatland often talk of speed, power and x-factor, a player must possess at least 2 of these attributes. Why is the cognitive ability to read space known as an X-FACTOR, it is no less special than the other 2 abilities.


    this has nothing to do with Burges I m just venting.

    1. My gripe is confusing size and bulk with power and strength. Hence why you see so many rugby players on gym bunny body building type sessions. Go to the gym to get strong and to become more powerful (a by-product of which will probably be some gain in bodyweight) don’t go just to get big and hope to get a bit stronger along the way.

    2. Good comments RonBraz. Its a terrible failing in a lot of junior rugby in this country whereby the big lad often gets the nod over the smaller lad, irrespective of their skills. This, inevitably flows through right to the top which makes the smaller lads far more unlikely to make it to the higher levels of the game.

  7. Dear Burrel, 12Ts and all of you other aspirational English rugby centre’s who we have nurtured through our schools and academies. You’re not good enough sorry, we’re going to sign a player from another code for 1/2 a million quid instead. I mean, we know you tried and all, but this is SAM BURGESS!!!! HE’S AMAZING!!!!

    1. Interesting view point. If you want to beat the best, surely you want to have the best in your team? Australia and NZ have done it with SBW and Folau to great success over the past few years.

      I’m not saying Burgess will be that good, but he certainly could be.

      Surely competition from a player of this quality can only benefit the England side?

      1. It’s an odd one Jacob – rugby union is the only sport where you can “buy” new internationals. The eye watering transfer fee indicates they hold him in very high regard. As it’s the RFU paying it then existing English players will know he is on a fasttrack to ensure that money is not wasted. Where is the motivation for Burrell et al to improve given that an apparent 500k transfer fee indicates this guy is 100% certain to be given a few caps at least to see how he goes.

        1. And Welsh centrally contracting some players and not others?

          If Lancaster has proved anything he can be unbelievably loyal. Burgess will get a chance for sure but not sure he’ll jettison the incumbents until they’ve had one no maybe two mediocre seasons!

          Any way Thank goodness he’s not going to Sarries. This seems to be a far more decisive factor in selection!

          1. Might surprise you but being Welsh doesn’t mean I automatically think that everything we do is right. The WRU’s piecemeal approach to central contracting is divisive and daft. We either have a a central contract pool or no central contracts at all.

            So I still think the Burgess thing is an issue and my only issue is the whopping RFU financial commitment. Yes, having the best players is the best but here we have a man being parachuted in over the heads of the incumbents. The RFUs track record on ensuring that rugby is the dominant factor in then selecting or not selecting is not good – Farrel Snr was rushed in with massive haste, I would expect 500K reasons why Burgess is treated in the same way. I’d also add that he’s almost def going to have some nods/winks/carrots about this being a chance to play in RWC 2015 so will be expecting such. As a pro he knows there are no guarantees but all of this noise around it cannot be good for the current seat warmers who will now suddenly see a potential conflict of interest for the RFU between getting their moneys worth out of the player and allowing the cream to rise to the top naturally.

            1. With all due respect, there is alot of assumption here Brighty. I feel it worth remembering that Burgess is a truly world class player in his prime, personally I have no concerns about him making the side on merit. This is totally different from Farrell’s switch at the end of his career.

            2. Can’t believe it – where has one-eyed Brighty gone!?

              Completely agree about Farrell Snr, but he was at the end of his career, Burgess is 25 and in his prime.

              SL has come out his afternoon and said that the RFU don’t centrally contract players so a club will have to sign him – so that seems to contradict some reports.

              I agree with you in regards to central contracts by the way, either have a solid rule where you have central contracts, or do not use them.

            3. Ha ha.

              I gues what i’m saying Brighty is that there is always a reason why someone could feel agreived or demotivated. In my time at least:

              Bias towards Bath (Rowell)
              Bias towards big uncreative players (Robinson/ Johnson)
              Bias towards ex league and ex Bath (Ashton)
              Bias towards ex league, Northern and or Saracen players (Lancaster/ Farrell)

              In most cases I would hope that the incumbants would use it as motivtion to play better and make themsleves un droppable.

        2. I think its Bath and the RFU paying it.

          This is the only point of yours I agree with. If you want to switch codes, that’s fine, persuade a club to take you on and pay for you. The RFU should not be paying anything to bring him across

          With regards to him playing for England, I see no issue here. As Jacob says, surely you want the best playing for your team? Surely this should spur centres like Burrell onto new heights to prove you can’t just pick a bloke out of league and make him into an international union player?

          This is the peak of the sport, you don’t pick someone just because they’ve served their time on the way up. You pick them because they are the best.

          The most successful team in the world don’t seem to mind about playing league players, both Brad Thorn and SBW have both switched back and forwards between the codes but I bet Kiwi fans aren’t worrying about it.

          With so little time left before the world cup and given Lancaster’s pragmatic attitude, I would be very surprised to see him parachuted straight into the team without first proving his worth at Bath. There may be pressure from the RFU (which is distasteful) but even they will accept that if the bloke isn’t performing, then he shouldn’t be in the team

        3. Sort of want to echo Benjits point. What is the difference between this and the Warburton central contract?

          What is Tipruic supposed to think if the WRU centrally contract Warburton?

          It is the same issue, and not a significant one IMO.

          In simple terms, England need all the talent we can get! If Burgess is good enough at rugby union, he’ll be in the England side.

    2. It cuts both ways Brighty. Competition is not necessarily a bad thing. 12t and Burrell may need to up their game, as Dickson has at Saints when the end of his career was prematurely reported.

      At least in this case he is a genuine Super star and talent. Your argument held more traction when English union centres were being over taken by the likes of Hape and Tomkins!

      1. I’d say that the Farrel Snr example is the best one. He was clearly not the best centre in England at the time, he was rushed with unseemly haste into the English setup and still remains there.

        1. There was definately something to that, but there was also the fact that the IC cupboard was very bare, and given Farrell’s reputation we were desperate for it to work. If I remember the previous centre partner ship Ashton inherited from Robinson was Tindall and Noon!! The fact that we had to get Catt out of retirement just showed what a poor state we were in. It almost makes me feel better about our current state of affairs!

  8. Burgess is quick, has a step, an offload, is monstorous both in trucking up ball and in defence (although he’ll have to adapt his tackling technique). The best comparison is Sonny Bill Williams. Not many league converts come to union and play 10, 12 or 13 with great success but Burgess is one of the best league players in the NRL (and therefore in the world) and should make a huge impact in the 15 a side game.

    Hopefully he’ll bring George with him!

  9. Could this be just a very expensive contingency policy for Manu? We really have no replacement for him and if we build our attack around his talents we will be screwed if he gets injured before the world cup. That would leave Burrell and 12t or Eastmond to contest the 12 jersey?

  10. I find it astonishing that any union fan could see a switch for a player of his profile, talent and leadership as a potential negative. Squad depth is surely one of the trademarks of a world class international side.
    England’s backs now have some further points to prove, although some seem to see that as detrimental, I feel that there is no reason this shouldn’t see them up their game. Signing him from the NRL would be incredible for union.

    1. Easy, Burgess is new to union and there will be a steep learning curve. There is no guarantee that he will make the adjustment. So, there is a potential that he could be fast-tracked at the expense of more deserving players.

      Plus, he’s in no name’s land as to whether he is a back or forward. Personally, I feel his only option is as a back because he is not used to rucking, scrumming, and all those subtleties.

      We shall see though.

  11. Another (more cynical) view could be that the RFU are willing to pay such a large amount of money because they feel his involvement could spark more interest in the home world cup, maybe from RL viewers etc, especially as SBW being involve too. So it could be seen as an investment.
    I have no idea about the sums of money spent on past converts, but would the RFU spend so much if the world cup wasn’t in England?

  12. I’m guessing he would be packing down in the back row? If so the question is who would he replace in the squad? Would he become a better player than Wood, Robshaw, Vunipola, Morgan etc in the next 12 months?

    1. The theory/most likely position would actually be at 12. So there isnt really an established player to oust! 12T has been mixed, Barrit is solid but unspectacular, Eastmond untested, and Burrell has 1 cap, just at 13.

  13. Let me get this right; over the last two weeks our improvements in the centre department have been a slightly smaller potential Manu back up in Burrell and a slightly larger Manu back up in Burgess?
    It’s great having the 13 shirt more injury proof but what good is it taking a sledgehammer, a hammer and a mallet to 2015 with no scalpels or even butter knives inside them?
    12 is the more problematic position. Twelvetrees needs to front up and start playing consistently well and with some creativity too. Otherwise it’s time to try Eastmond and inject some more pace and fleetfootedness.

    Worrying how thin on the ground our centre options are becoming.

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