Sam Burgess is assured of a warm welcome on his return to rugby league as speculation intensifies over his future.
The 26-year-old dual-code England player is due to report back to Bath today after being given time off to consider his future following his controversial involvement in England’s disappointing World Cup campaign but he seems unlikely to play for them again.
As talks continue over his release from the two years left on his contract with Bath, Burgess was a hot topic of conversation among his former England team-mates after they began their rugby league three-match Test series against New Zealand with a 26-12 win in Hull.
“I hope he comes back to league for us, Sam’s a league player,” said Brett Ferres, England’s two-try man of the match. “He’s a fantastic player and I was lucky enough to play with him at the World Cup and Bradford before that so I hope he does.”
Burgess was an absentee from Sunday’s game but watched England’s opening autumn international against France a week earlier when he was a popular visitor to the home changing room.
Hooker James Roby said: “He’s part of England. If you’ve been involved in this set-up, you are always one of us.”
Speculation over Burgess’ future was fuelled by the appearance at the first Test of NRL head of strategy Shane Richardson, a former chief executive of South Sydney who finalised Russell Crowe’s purchase of the player from Bradford six years ago.
And Burgess’ younger brother Tom admits being made a scapegoat for England’s poor World Cup showing may persuade him to make the decision to quit the 15-man code.
“Speaking truthfully, he was probably treated a bit unfairly in my opinion and that’s probably what’s pushing him away at the moment,” Tom Burgess said.
“He’s had a week or 10 days off that (Bath coach) Mike Ford gave him to refresh him a little bit mentally and he’ll assess his options.
“He’s not made any decision as yet, at the moment he’s still with Bath.”
Burgess, Roby and Ferres all made a big impact from the bench as England drew first blood in the Test series with the world number one ranked Kiwis.
The tourists made the better start, with forwards Tohu Harris and Sam Moa scoring tries inside the first 16 minutes, but England got back to 12-12 at half-time and Ferres scored the second of his two tries on 58 minutes to put them on their way to a first win over New Zealand since 2011.
The second Test will be held at the Olympic Stadium in London on Saturday.