Sam Burgess back where he belongs

Sam Burgess is heading back to South Sydney. Photo: Getty Images.
Sam Burgess is heading back to South Sydney. Photo: Getty Images. David Rogers

Anyone who watched England play during the recent rugby World Cup and had even the slightest idea about either rugby code would have been totally disillusioned by Sam Burgess.

Quite simply, big Sam looked lost. Without being disrespectful, he was a virtual passenger and it seemed the only TV footage shown in Australia from his World Cup escapade was his high tackle on Michael Hooper, for which he was lucky not to be sin-binned.

That Burgess is returning to the NRL after just one season in rugby should surprise no one. While he had signed with Bath for three years, his move was ostensibly to be England's blockbusting weapon as an outside back during their home World Cup.

To suggest his switch was a failure would be unfair. He did make the English World Cup squad and is now recognised as a dual rugby international, joining recent league converts Brad Thorn and Sonny Bill Williams in that rarefied company.

And while he was paid big bucks to make the switch, what proportion of the lure was a publicity stunt?

How many died-in-the-wool rugby league fans watched the World Cup simply because Big Sam was playing for the Poms?

While the fact that Burgess has quit his new code a mere two weeks after the World Cup final doesn't mean it was a PR stunt, the cynics certainly have some ammunition.

But in a plus for rugby league, the NRL is now on the receiving end of a free hit in the publicity stakes.

Push all that palaver aside, though, and this is a massive lift for rugby league.

Sam Burgess is a once-in-a-lifetime player - that's obviously why the Pommie union bosses wanted him.

His last season with the Rabbitohs was enormous, and while he had plenty of mates helping him, few would doubt he was the reason the Bunnies were premiers in 2014.

In that season he ran 4258 metres in his 26 games, almost 400 metres more than speedsters Jarryd Hayne and Roger Tuivasa-Scheck and 700 metres more than the next best forward, his English teammate James Graham.

Some might be crass enough to suggest Big Sam probably didn't run that far in all his combined rugby training sessions for Bath and England.

But Sam Burgess is not just an outstanding player - he is a fan magnet.

And not just for Rabbitohs supporters. He is media savvy, has developed a tremendous rapport with the fans of the game in general and is simply a likeable big bloke. And his close friendship with Russell Crowe delivers priceless promotion for the game.

There is a well-worn rugby league saying that if South Sydney is strong, so is the game. If that is still the case, the game has just received a massive boost.

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