Aussies question Burgess move

Mon, 17 Feb 2014 08:22
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The Australians, never shy to heap praise on their Rugby League recruits, are just as quick to knock code-hoppers when they are desert the land Down Under.

The Australians, never shy to heap praise on their Rugby League recruits, are just as quick to knock code-hoppers when they are desert the land Down Under.

Reds coach Richard Graham was quick to question the decision of English superstar Sam Burgess, who revealed he will quit the South Sydney Rabbitohs and switch codes to join Rugby Union side Bath - ahead of next year's World Cup.

Now the Aussies feel there is "serious doubts" that Burgess can adapt quick enough to make England's team for next year's World Cup.

He will leave the Rabbitohs at the end of this year's NRL season and that will give him less than 11 months to make the transition to play in the 2015 World Cup for the host nation.

Graham, a former assistant coach at Bath and also the Wallabies, doubts Burgess could master the nuances of Rugby Union well enough for the cut-throat, global showpiece tournament.

"I think the transition will be a tough one for him," Graham said on Monday.

"His aspirations of going to the World Cup are going to be challenging, to say the least.

"There's no doubt he's a big physical guy, a very good athlete and a real professional in the way he goes about his training so he'll give himself a chance.

"But I think probably the timing will be against him.

"He has to find a position and develop a skill-set there."

The Rabbitohs said the forward had been released from the final two years of his contract amid reports the English Premiership team paid a transfer fee of over AU$900 000 (US$815 000).

The 25-year-old League international is said to be targeting England's inside centre position at next year's World Cup on home soil.

"Burgess is set to head to England to play Rugby Union for Bath at the end of the year to fulfil a long-held ambition to become a dual international, with the opportunity to play in the 2015 World Cup and [achieve] English club success," a club statement said.

The Rabbitohs said they had recently received a request for release from Burgess, who has been a revelation since being lured to the National Rugby League (NRL) by the club's co-owner, Hollywood star Russell Crowe.

"After long discussions, [it] has been granted, with the Rabbitohs negotiating an undisclosed release fee," the club said.

The Rabbitohs have also struck a deal that the club has first and last offer on Burgess's services should he return to Rugby League in the future.

"I'm happy this has all been sorted out before the start of the season so that I can concentrate on my game and the team without any other things in the way," said Burgess, who has represented England and Great Britain at league.

"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.

He added: "But all of that starts next season.

"My teammates, coaches, staff and the Rabbitohs members have been a huge support to me over the past four seasons and hopefully I can repay that support in 2014."

The 196cm, 114kg forward, with strong handling skills, has often been compared to repeat code-switcher Sonny Bill Williams, who helped the All Blacks win the 2011 World Cup.

A statement from Bath described Burgess as "world class", while head coach Mike Ford added: "I've known Sam since his Rugby League days in England and he is an exceptionally talented athlete.

"He's hard working, a huge presence both on and off the field, and an ambitious young Englishman, all of which are qualities that we are building our squad around.

"I've no doubt Sam will fit in seamlessly here at Bath and we're looking forward to having him join us and start making the transition."

Burgess was talent-spotted by Crowe and since joining the Rabbitohs from the Bradford Bulls on 2010, he has been followed by elder sibling Luke and twin brothers George and Tom.

They are the first set of four brothers to play for the same top-level Australian league side in more than a century.

Sources: AAP & AFP

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