No regrets as Burgess pledges long-term future to rugby league

Sam Burgess dismissed criticism from Bath coach Mike Ford as he arrived back in Australia where he pledged his long-term future to the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Sam Burgess (right) with Bath head coach Mike Ford (left) on the day he was unveiled at Bath.
Sam Burgess (right) with Bath head coach Mike Ford (left) on the day he was unveiled at Bath.

Ford on Tuesday criticised Burgess’ return to rugby league and the Rabbitohs just 12 months into his three-year Bath deal, claiming the 26-year-old “didn’t have the stomach” to stay and fight for a future in rugby union.

But Burgess insisted he could be proud of his short spell in rugby union.

“I went there, I met some cool people and had a great time learning a new game,” he said in a press conference at Sydney airport. “I played 20, 21 games for Bath and five games for my country in a short space of time.

“Everyone is saying that is a failure but if you saw the work that went in, the commitment to get in that position, I’m proud of what I achieved.

“Mike may be a bit upset and that’s fine. What did he say? That I missed my mum? Who doesn’t miss their mum? I’m not afraid to say that. Fordy is entitled to say what he wants but I think that’s more a reflection on himself than me.”

Bath captain Stuart Hooper denied Burgess the chance to meet with his team-mates there to say a proper farewell, while fly-half George Ford said he had let down his fellow players.

But Burgess insisted he had handled himself and the situation well, and that most of his team-mates understood.

“If I’m honest there are very few of my friends, my team-mates with both England and Bath that would question that,” he said. “Percentage wise there might be one or two but it doesn’t affect me too much. I think I handled myself extremely well.”

While Burgess leaves behind an ongoing post-mortem into his failed dalliance with union - and England’s decision to select him for the World Cup ahead of more experienced players - the Dewsbury-born player insisted he was “coming home” and could not see himself being anywhere other than Sydney.

“I’m here for a long time now,” he said. “I love south Sydney. It was never in question really about looking elsewhere at any of the clubs. I would find it very hard to put a different shirt on. I love this club, the experience I had here over the five seasons I played was unbelievable.”

Burgess said his heart was not in rugby union and he did not feel the same passion for the game as league, while also saying that he feared he did not have enough time in his career to learn the skills he needed to operate at the highest levels.

“I have no regrets about going, and no regrets about coming back,” he said. “You have a very short space of time to play professional sport at the top level. I was going to play as a flanker in rugby union and some of the skills you need in the game I have never done in my life.

“It was going to take 18 months to nail that down and play at the top level, and by then I was going to be 28, 29. I had to weigh up what was in my heart. If it had been union I was probably have finished my career there, but I wanted to come back and finish what we had started in rugby league, in Australia, and in south Sydney.”