Sam Burgess says his high-profile, six-figure switch of rugby codes was based on "the challenge" that will await him — and not next year’s World Cup in England.
Burgess ended his stellar rugby league career by guiding the Russell Crowe-owned South Sydney Rabbitohs to a stunning NRL Grand final victory over Canterbury Bulldogs earlier this month.
The 25-year-old played almost the entire game with a fractured cheekbone and eye socket — injuries that are now set to delay his union debut probably until December.
But, despite him having yet to play the 15-a-side code, Burgess is already being touted as a potential member of England’s 2015 World Cup squad.
“I’ve been asked a lot about England and everything,” Burgess, who was formally unveiled as a Bath player at the Recreation Ground yesterday, said.
“But for now it’s important to get fit as a player, then I can get stuck in. Don’t get me wrong. I know there is a World Cup — I understand that. But I made the decision based on the challenge.”
Burgess confirmed he had spoken this year “very briefly” with England head coach Stuart Lancaster.
“I have spoken to Stuart very briefly — maybe twice, three times throughout the year,” he added.
“The phone calls were ‘how’s your body, are you healthy?’ He rang up to see how I was getting on, but we didn’t talk in depth about the squad or position or anything.”
If Burgess does become part of the England set-up, he will find himself under red rose backs coach Andy Farrell’s guidance, which would mean him working with one of his heroes.
And any World Cup opportunity for Burgess will inevitably draw comparisons with fellow former league giant Sonny Bill Williams, who starred for New Zealand at the 2011 World Cup and is now back in top-level union following a return to league.
And while Bath have yet to reveal any decision on where Burgess will feature for them, it looks likely to be as a back-row forward.
“If you want my gut feeling, I think Sam’s going to play in the back row,” Bath head coach Mike Ford said.
“Sam will learn the game over the next six weeks or so. The way we are trying to play at Bath will suit Sam’s style and Sam’s skill-set.”
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