Image:England’s Sam Burgess during training. Action Images via Reuters / Henry Browne Livepic
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Code-hopping Sam Burgess has turned his back on rugby union and is heading back to Australia to play for the South Sydney Rabbitohs, the National Rugby League club said on Friday.
The 26-year-old, who played for England at this year’s Rugby World Cup, has signed for South Sydney to the end of the 2018 season, the club said on Friday, hours after British media reported Burgess was leaving his rugby union club Bath.
“I want to thank everyone at England Rugby and Bath for some great memories over the last 12 months,” Burgess said in a statement on the South Sydney website (www.rabbitohs.com).
“I must also thank Bath especially for granting my release to return home to my family who I have missed more than I could have imagined.
“I am also extremely excited to be joining back up with South Sydney.”
Burgess, who switched codes and joined Bath last year, was a surprise inclusion in Stuart Lancaster’s England’s World Cup squad and played at centre in the crucial group defeat by Wales.
He was criticised for his performances during the rugby union tournament and British media immediately began reporting that he was considering a return to the 13-man code.
On Thursday, Bath had denied the club were in talks over a transfer for Burgess and insisted he was going nowhere.
Burgess, whose three rugby league-playing brothers and mother all live in Sydney, originally moved to Australia in 2010 after four seasons with Bradford Bulls and helped the Rabbitohs win the NRL title in 2014.
“I could not be happier to see Sam coming home to the Rabbitohs,” said South Sydney coach Michael Maguire.
“He had an enormously positive impact on our club, both on and off the field, throughout the five seasons he was here, and to be bringing back one of the games most dominant players is fantastic for not only our club, but the game itself.
“He will add starch to our forward pack, and he will bring his leadership qualities to the team as well.”
Burgess made his England rugby union debut in an August test against France and was then chosen in the World Cup squad ahead of regular starting centre Luther Burrell.
He started the key pool game against Wales and was replaced with 10 minutes remaining with his team leading by seven points. However, a minute after his substitution England conceded a try and went on to lose.
The hosts were knocked out a week later when beaten by Australia, with Burgess coming on as a late replacement.
It had been expected that Burgess would be on the Bath bench against London Irish this weekend, having returned to the club this week after a short holiday.
Burgess won five England caps and played 21 times for Bath.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; additional reporting by Shravanth Vijayakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Pritha Sarkar and Ken Ferris)
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