Burgess to try out different positions in union
BATH, England (AP) — Code-hopping rugby star Sam Burgess will be tested in different positions by Bath as he looks to find his best role in union in time to secure a place in England’s 2015 World Cup squad.
The 25-year-old Burgess was presented as a Bath player on Thursday, less than a month after ending his rugby league career by guiding the South Sydney Rabbitohs to victory in the NRL grand final.
The player nicknamed “Slammin Sam,” because of his tough tackling and ball-carrying ability, is being talked of as a potential center or back-rower in union.
“I’m not worried about the number on his back,” Bath coach Mike Ford said. “In the first few months that he plays, we’re going to try him in different positions.”
Burgess is unsure when he will be making his debut for Bath, as he is still recovering after fracturing his eye socket and cheekbone in the grand final. He sustained the injuries in the first minute of the match, but went on to become the first non-Australian to be named man of the match in the final.
“We will play it by ear,” Burgess said. “I have had quite a lot of work done in my face and the surgeon said to me, ‘Don’t be silly.’
“We will make a smart decision over time with the medical staff here at Bath.”
Burgess has less than a year to get up to speed with the 15-man code and impress England coach Stuart Lancaster enough to be picked for the World Cup on home soil.
“Stuart hasn’t really said a great deal about things — we have just spoken as friends on the phone, he has often called to see how my body has been,” Burgess said. “Really, I think the main thing is to work hard here at Bath, earn the respect of my teammates and start playing some football as soon as possible The England thing is a bit far ahead.”
Burgess made the decision to quit league for union at the end of 2013 while he was playing for England during the Rugby League World Cup.
He said he missed the country and the British way of life, having been in Sydney since 2010. During his four years at the Rabbitohs, three of his brothers were also signed by the club.
“I made a strong decision to come here, leave my family over in Australia,” Burgess said. “I think, initially, they were quite annoyed at me because I had created everything in Sydney. I was the first to go there and everyone made it out, and then I decide to up and leave.
“But they fully support my decision. We will certainly miss each other.”