Sam Burgess is already being touted in some quarters as the missing piece to England’s jigsaw but the rugby league convert insists his first order of business is to make waves at Bath Rugby.
Bath, who currently lie fourth in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table, officially unveiled Burgess on Thursday as the 25-year-old switches codes following a highly successful stint at NRL club South Sydney Rabbitohs.
The Yorkshire-born powerhouse was named man-of-the-match in the Rabbitohs’ recent NRL Grand Final victory despite suffering a fractured cheekbone and eye socket with just a minute played.
Burgess also became the first Englishman to win the RLIF International Player of the Year award but announced in February that he was following in the footsteps of the likes of Jason Robinson, Chris Ashton and Sonny Bill Williams in making the switch from rugby league to union.
Like New Zealander Williams, many expect Burgess to play in the centres but with the possibility of him turning out in the back row also mooted, Bath’s newest addition claims he is happy to fill in where needed.
“As time goes on things will become a bit clearer,” said Burgess. “There has been talk about me in the centres and the back row but I will play wherever Mike Ford decides.
“Once I get into a game situation in training I think I will understand where I’ll be better suited but I’m sure Mike has a few ideas.
“The main thing for me is to work hard at Bath and earn the respect of my teammates down here, so I can start playing as soon as possible.
“The England thing is a bit far ahead and I won’t lose sight of what’s important at the moment which is playing good rugby for Bath.
“I’m really looking forward to the transition which I guess starts on Monday when I jump into full-time training.”
An explosive runner and hard tackler, Burgess lit up the rugby league world and will undoubtedly be an asset for both Bath and England in the long-run.
But Bath head coach Ford admits he will trial his new acquisition in a number of positions before settling on a permanent role.
For all the success stories, a number of rugby league stars have also struggled to adapt to union over the years but Ford believes Burgess’ unique talents, combined with the set-up at Bath, means he won’t suffer the same fate.
“There’s a little bit of risk because it’s well-known that quite a few rugby league players have converted to union and not made it,” said Ford. “But the individual that Sam is minimises that risk.
“The other thing that will help him convert is the environment he’s coming to – we’ve got a couple of rugby league players here who have converted, like Kyle Eastmond, who have done very well.
“We’re trying to play a style of rugby that will certainly suit Sam – he’s got a skill-set that is pretty good for every code. It’s up to us to make sure that we utilise his skillset.
“The important thing is that we keep him as who he is – there’s no point bringing him over from the other side of the world and then changing him. He’s a fantastic carrier and he’s a good hitter when the opposition have the ball.”