Burgess: "I missed my family more than I could imagine"

AFTER securing a release from Bath to re-join South Sydney, Sam Burgess says he missed his family “more than I could have imagined.”

HEADING 'HOME': Sam Burgess.

The England player’s much-vaunted delve into rugby union has ended after barely 12 months, signalling rejoice in rugby league circles but leaving a bitter taste in their rival code.

Yorkshireman Burgess, 26, arrived at Bath last October for a transfer fee of around £275,000 having just inspired Souths to NRL Grand Final glory, been named the world’s No1 player and keen to make a similar mark in the 15-man game.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

He did, admittedly, manage to work his way into Stuart Lancaster’s World Cup squad being controversially selected as a centre - despite having been switched by his club to blindside flanker in April.

Dual-international Burgess duly played in three of England’s four World Cup games but was harshly criticised by wide sections of the rugby union media and certain pundits for his performances as the hosts failed spectacularly.

Now, after intense speculation and with two years still remaining on his Bath contract, the Dewsbury-born star is on his way back to Sydney where his younger twin brothers Tom and George both still play for Souths, elder sibling Luke features with Manly and mother Julie, also, lives.

The Rabbitohs, thought to have had to paid more than double what they initially received for the player, have signed Burgess - whose fiancee Phoebe is Australian - until the end of 2018 at least.

"I want to thank everyone at England Rugby and Bath for some great memories over the last 12 months,” he said, on their website last night.

“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. I cannot wait to get back into the Rabbitohs culture, full of great people and passionate members and supporters.

"I had a wonderful time in England and learnt a lot about the game of rugby union as both a back and a forward, and I have definitely developed as an all-round player and athlete after that.

“I’m now very lucky to be given the chance to come back to Souths and serve this club and its members.

"I look forward to getting stuck into training with all the boys and working hard for the upcoming season."

Burgess made almost 100 NRL matches for the Rabbitohs having joined from Bradford Bulls at the end of 2009, earning legendary status in the Australian game, but tellingly an understandably elated Souths coach Michael Maguire said last night he is now returning to the sport “he was born to play.”

As well as that family reason, Burgess must also have been nudged back to the 13-man game due, in part, to the way he has been made a scapegoat by many for England’s World Cup shambles.

He came off the bench with some success in their opening win against Fiji and was solid enough, too, having started against Wales, the infamous fixture that left Lancaster’s stuttering side facing an early demise.

Indeed, when Burgess was replaced late on against Wales, the hosts were leading by 1o points yet somehow they inexplicably went on to lose 28-26 to leave their hopes of escaping the ‘group of death’ hanging by a thread.

Again, inexplicably, he copped much of the flak for that defeat and was back on the bench for the defeat to Australia that signalled the end of England’s World Cup and was omitted from the squad entirely for their final game against Uruguay.

Burgess returned to training with Bath this week having been given 10 days off to clear his head following that World Cup calamity but, essentially, it seems that was only to say ‘goodbye’.

Embarrassingly, Bath head coach Mike Ford had maintained that Burgess would stay and even said he would be on the bench for tomorrow’s game against London Irish while owner Bruce Craig was still saying on Wednesday how the player was going nowhere.

It is hard to imagine what Luther Burrell must be thinking now, the England centre who was ever-present in this year’s and last year’s 6 Nations only to be dropped by Lancaster in order to fast-track the rookie Burgess into the equation.

Yet that is not Burgess’ fault either; Lancaster made that decision and these latest developments, allied to England’s failure at the World Cup, must surely now leave him on the brink of losing his job.

For the record, Burgess scored four tries in 21 games with Bath and made five appearances for his country having debuted against France in August.

However, he is now heading back to his first love, presumably slightly aggrieved that his talent and potential to succeed in the 15-man game has been wasted - if handled better by England and not rushed into the Test arena as he was, the player undoubtedly had all the attributes to succeed.

Bath, aside from the PR shambles of recent days, seem to have treated him well and looked to make the transition as smooth as possible for the player.

But it is so easy to understand why Burgess would now, especially with all the politics surrounding that England debacle only set to get nastier, want return to the NRL and a game that perfectly suits his skills.

Maguire added: “I could not be happier to see Sam coming home to the Rabbitohs.

“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 game’s most dominant players is fantastic for not only our club, but the game itself.

“He will add starch to our forward pack and bring his leadership qualities to the team as well.

“He wanted to test himself in rugby union and he achieved many of his goals, becoming a dual-international for England and representing his country at a Rugby World Cup.

“The next chapter is for him to return to the game he was born to play and we’re over the moon that he is coming home to do that with his Rabbitohs family here at South Sydney.”

It is also a massive fillip for England's rugby league coach Steve McNamara as he prepares his side - hoping to secure a Test series win over New Zealand on Saturday - for the 2016 Four Nations and 2017 World Cup.

Leeds Rhinos had made their interest known in the world-class prop/second-row but Burgess was always destined to head back to Australia.