ENGLAND rugby union’s Sam Burgess could be on his way back to league with Leeds Rhinos.
Rhinos have told Burgess’s club, Bath, they are interested in signing the 26-year-old if he decides to call time on his rugby union career.
Burgess is believed to keen to return to the 13-a-side game, little more than a year after joining Bath from Australian outfit South Sydney Rabbitohs, where he earned the ‘world’s best rugby league player’ accolade.
He played three times during England’s ill-fated Rugby World Cup campaign, but was heavily criticised after the hosts failed to make it past the group stage.
Bath coach Mike Ford - a former league player with Castleford Tigers and player-coach at Bramley - gave Burgess time off after the World Cup to consider his future.
Rhinos have been keeping a close eye on the situation and chief executive Gary Hetherington has now confirmed they have spoken to Bath about the former Bradford Bulls forward.
“We have made it known to Bath that should be be looking to come back to rugby league, we would be interested in looking at that possibility,” Hetherington revealed.
“Sam is aware of that as well. I think it would be a terrific boost for the Super League competition if any club could bring him into Super League.
“We have got a watching brief on it.”
Burgess has two years remaining on his Bath contract, but Hetherington said Leeds are willing and able to pay a transfer fee.
A product of the Dewsbury Moor amateur club, Burgess is a cult hero at South Sydney after helping them win the 2014 NRL Grand Final - despite suffering a fractured cheekbone on the first play of the game - in his final appearance.
Souths are believed to have first option on him if and when he returns to league and Hetherington admitted they are favourites to re-sign Burgess.
But Souths could struggle to fit Burgess into their budget for next season, which might open up a window of opportunity for Leeds to sign him on a one-year deal.
Rhinos have a close relationship with Souths, who are owned by actor Russell Crowe.