The possibility of Sam Burgess signing for English rugby giants Bath could be thwarted by rival teams.
Sam Burgess’ hopes of becoming an England rugby union player could be curtailed by Bath’s English premiership rivals.
The South Sydney enforcer is wanted by Bath provided they can get assistance to pay a transfer fee of around $900,000 to Souths from the Rugby Football Union (RFU), who are keen to have him in their squad for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Burgess is believed to have been approached by former league great Andy Farrell, who works as England rugby’s defensive coach, about making the switch to the 15-man game during the recent Rugby League World Cup and head coach Stuart Lancaster met him on a fact-finding mission to Australia at Redfern Oval last year.
Although he did his best to dismiss the reports as speculation in the build-up to his side’s win over Scotland on Saturday, Lancaster didn’t deny a switch would happen and said Burgess was “a grounded, down to earth northerner, which helps”.
Unlike Australia, New Zealand and Ireland, the RFU do not centrally contract their players and, after objections from Bath’s rivals about the prospect of partly funding a deal for Burgess, it appears unlikely a move would take place unless Bath stump up all the cash.
The English giants are bankrolled by reclusive multi-millionaire Bruce Craig who sold his pharmaceutical services company for STG975 million ($A1.8 billion) in 2009, and the 50-year-old is known to be a keen fan of the Yorkshireman, who’s less than 12 months into the new four-year contract he signed with the Rabbitohs last year.
However, it’s believed Bath’s powerbrokers are concerned as to how much value they’ll get from their investment if he’s fast-tracked into the England team for the Six Nations and also the northern hemisphere autumn Test matches if he arrives after the conclusion of the 2014 NRL campaign.
Despite this, coach Mike Ford, a former league player with Great Britain and Wigan, confirmed after his side’s win over Newcastle this weekend that Burgess is a player he’s interested in.
“Recruitment is always ongoing,” Ford told reporters.
“Even when our squad is signed for this year, we’ll be looking at players and making notes about recruitment for next year.
“We’re not going to mention anybody until ink is signed on the paper. But, of course, everybody knows who Sam Burgess is. He’s a very good rugby league player.”
Burgess and his three brothers arrived back in Sydney late on Monday night following a family funeral in the UK and refused to comment on his future plans to the waiting media.
Souths chief executive Shane Richardson maintained on Tuesday there’d been no contact from anyone in England about a potential deal.
“Nothing has changed and the club is making no comment,” Richardson told AAP.
Former union recruit Lote Tuqiri is hopeful Burgess will stay, with the 33-year-old winger claiming he’d signed for Souths so he could play alongside the forward.
“He’s a superstar and one of the reasons I came here to Souths,” Tuqiri said.
“I don’t know what’s happening with him so I can’t really say too much about rugby, but he is a great player.”