Sam Burgess’ chances of playing international rugby in his first union season took a knock today, after it was revealed the RFU have refused to contribute financially to his South Sydney-to-Bath transfer.
England’s governing body was expected to pay nearly £300,000 towards his fee as they wanted the 25-year-old to be the national side’s hard-running inside centre in next year’s World Cup. However, some of Bath’s premiership rivals complained at the lack of fairness and the RFU have had to withdraw their offer.
That meant Bath owner Bruce Craig had to pay the full sum himself and thus has total control over how the team use Burgess. Reports suggest Bath were only going to play Burgess in the centres at the request of the RFU and are now expected to stick him in the pack, most likely at number eight, which is the sport’s closest equivalent to loose forward.
The reason this doesn’t bode well for his England future is that, currently, the national side are blessed in the back-row department. There are two high-profile names – Gloucester’s Ben Morgan and Saracens’ Billy Vunipola – locked in a battle for the number eight shirt, while captain Chris Robshaw owns one of the two available flanker spots. Indeed, the competition is immense.
Add into the equation Burgess will have to learn how to scrummage, ruck, maul and compete in the line out before he can even make his Bath debut and his odds of appearing in the white of England are swiftly fading.