Sam Burgess has left English Premiership rugby union club Bath to return to the NRL and the South Sydney Rabbitohs, just weeks after featuring in England’s disastrous Rugby World Cup campaign.
The Rabbitohs confirmed on Friday morning that the British powerhouse would be part of their 2016 roster, rejoining the club on a three-year deal.
After a heroic, Clive Churchill Medal-winning display in Souths’ 2014 grand final triumph, Burgess switched codes with the express intent of wearing the white jersey in the World Cup – but he is now set to don the red and green again in just a few short months.
The forward-pack enforcer was manufactured into an inside-centre by Bath and England, and largely struggled to make the desired impact in his new code and position.
He did, however, earn five Test caps, including a start in the No.12 in England’s crucial pool loss to Wales and an appearance off the bench in their subsequent thrashing at the hands of Australia that saw the hosts unceremoniously dumped out of the tournament.
While archrival and fellow code-hopper Sonny Bill Williams picked up his second World Cup winner’s medal with a starring role in the All Blacks’ success, Burgess’ union foray is destined to be remembered as an abject failure.
— Sonny Bill Williams (@SonnyBWilliams) November 5, 2015
Despite being widely tipped to go back to the 13-man code, Bath owner Bruce Craig and coach Mike Ford both offered assurances on Wednesday that Burgess would fulfil the remaining two years of his deal with the club.
That pledge has gone up in a puff of smoke, though, with the Rabbitohs gleefully welcoming the dynamic 26-year-old, who has played 96 games for Souths, back into the fold.
It’s a huge boost for the club after its title defence in 2015 crumbled badly, limping into seventh spot before being tossed from the finals by Cronulla in week one. The Bunnies clearly missed Burgess’ impact and influence.
Freeing up salary cap space is Souths’ only stumbling block – despite letting high-profile recruit Glenn Stewart, who was brought in as a replacement for Burgess, go after just one year at Redfern. Former Origin forwards Chris McQueen and Tim Grant, and Test centre Dylan Walker are the players looking most likely to make way for the superstar’s homecoming.
The news is disappointing for Bath, England and world rugby as a whole, but it introduces a fascinating subplot to the 2016 NRL season as the Rabbitohs aim to put a difficult campaign behind them.