On this day in 2015: Sam Burgess ends brief rugby union stint

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By PA Sport Staff
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Sam Burgess’ unhappy spell in rugby union came to an end on this day in 2015.

Burgess returned to rugby league club South Sydney Rabbitohs despite having two years left on a three-year deal with Premiership side Bath.

The cross-code convert had joined Bath just over a year earlier with the 2015 Rugby World Cup very much on his mind.

Rugby Union – Rugby World Cup 2015 – Pool A – Fiji v England – Twickenham Stadium
Sam Burgess (centre) played for England against Fiji at the 2015 Rugby World Cup (Mike Egerton/PA)

Burgess was hailed as English rugby’s answer to Sonny Bill Williams, a big ball-playing rugby league forward able to transfer those skills to the backline in union, but he played at blindside flanker for Bath.

Dewsbury-born Burgess made his England debut in a World Cup warm-up match against France and was selected for the tournament ahead of the likes of Northampton centre Luther Burrell.

But England’s home World Cup turned into a huge disappointment as defeats to Australia and Wales saw them exit at the pool stage – the worst result for a host nation in the tournament’s history.

Burgess was a replacement for the opening win over Fiji, started the defeat by Wales, came off the bench for the last 15 minutes of the Australia loss and was dropped from the squad for the final game against Uruguay.

England v Tonga – Rugby League World Cup – Semi Final – Mount Smart Stadium
Sam Burgess reacts after England’s narrow defeat to Australia in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup final (NRL Imagery)

Despite Bath head coach Mike Ford saying Burgess would honour his contract, and that he expected him to be part of England’s 2016 Six Nations campaign, the 26-year-old was to head back to Australia to his former NRL side.

Burgess signed a three-year deal with the Rabbitohs and it was reported that he became the NRL’s highest-paid player with an annual salary worth £700,000.

He captained England in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup final defeat to Australia and was named in the NRL team of the decade in the seasons spanning 2010 and 2019.

Burgess was forced into early retirement in October 2019 by a chronic shoulder injury.