Burgess set for code-switch

2014-02-17 09:18
Sam Burgess (Getty)

Sydney - English superstar Sam Burgess will quit the South Sydney Rabbitohs and switch codes to join rugby union side Bath ahead of next year's Rugby World Cup, both clubs confirmed on Monday.

The Rabbitohs said the forward, who will leave at the end of the season, had been released from the final two years of his contract amid reports the English Premiership team paid a transfer fee of over Aus$900 000 (US$815 000).

The 25-year-old league international is said to be targeting England's inside-centre position at next year's union World Cup on home soil.

"Burgess... is set to head to England to play rugby union for Bath Rugby at the end of the year to fulfil a long-held ambition to become a dual international, with the opportunity to play in the 2015 Rugby World Cup and (achieve) English club rugby success," a club statement said.

The Rabbitohs said they had recently received a request for release from Burgess, who has been a revelation since being lured to the National Rugby League (NRL) by the club's co-owner, Hollywood star Russell Crowe.

"After long discussions, (it) has been granted, with the Rabbitohs negotiating an undisclosed release fee," the club said.

The Rabbitohs have also struck a deal that the club has first and last offer on Burgess's services should he return to rugby league in the future.

"I'm happy this has all been sorted out before the start of the season so that I can concentrate on my game and the team without any other things in the way," said Burgess, who has represented England and Great Britain at league.

"An opportunity presented itself to head back home to England and to pursue a chance to represent my country in two different sports.

"With 2015 being a Rugby World Cup, it was an opportunity I had to pursue and I thank the Rabbitohs for allowing me to make this move and start the next chapter in my sporting career.

He added: "But all of that starts next season.

"My team-mates, coaches, staff and the Rabbitohs members have been a huge support to me over the past four seasons and hopefully I can repay that support in 2014."

The 6ft 5in (1m 96cms), 18 stone (114 kgs) forward with strong handling skills has often been compared to repeat code-switcher Sonny Bill Williams, who helped the All Blacks win the 2011 World Cup.

A statement from Bath described Burgess as "world class", while head coach Mike Ford added: "I've known Sam since his rugby league days in England and he is an exceptionally talented athlete.

"He's hard working, a huge presence both on and off the field, and an ambitious young Englishman, all of which are qualities that we are building our squad around.

"I've no doubt Sam will fit in seamlessly here at Bath and we're looking forward to having him join us and start making the transition."

Burgess was talent-spotted by Crowe and since joining the Rabbitohs from the Bradford Bulls on 2010, he has been followed by elder sibling Luke and twin brothers George and Tom.

They are the first set of four brothers to play for the same top-level Australian league side in more than a century.

Read more on:    rugby

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