Rugby World Cup: Burgess 'to quit union' as England unravel

Rugby league convert could return to the 13-man game as England stars fear World Cup feedback will be leaked to media

Sam Burgess
(Image credit: Shaun Botteril/Getty)

By Gavin Mortimer

Bookmakers have stopped taking bets on Sam Burgess returning to rugby league amid growing speculation the England centre is planning to quit union less than a year after making the switch from the 13-man code. According to Sky Sports rumours are gathering pace that Burgess "is set to join Leeds Rhinos" from Premiership club Bath once England's World Cup campaign is over.

The host nation - knocked out of the group stage after successive defeats to Wales and Australia - face Uruguay on Saturday at the City of Manchester stadium in what is possibly the most meaningless fixture in the history of the England rugby team.

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When Coach Stuart Lancaster announced his team for the fixture there was no sign of Burgess' name, a curious omission considering he has long been talked up as a future star of English rugby.

A run out against the minnows of Uruguay who, fingers crossed, even England should beat, would have been just the sort of match for Burgess to develop his skills. The fact the 26-year-old Yorkshireman has been dropped (he started the Wales match and came off the bench against Australia) caused raised eyebrows among the press pack, which forced Lancaster to address the issue.

"I've not had any conversations with him about a move to rugby league at all," said the England coach when asked. "Genuinely, 100 per cent I didn't know that story was out there... he feels he's made good strides as a player and he wants to continue to improve."

Asked why Burgess hadn't been selected against Uruguay, Lancaster said it was simply because he wanted to see how Owen Farrell and Henry Slade combined in the centre.

Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph reports that the Rugby Football Union's plan to hold a "360-degree" review of what went wrong with England's World Cup campaign is in danger of unravelling. According to the paper "several players could snub it or provide only guarded feedback" because they fear their comments could be leaked to the media.

England's team announcements in this World Cup have all found their way into the press a day or two before they were officially released, and it appears that has spooked some of the players. "There is likely to be some critical feedback but I am not sure many of them will trust that it will be an anonymous survey so I think they will be guarded in what they say or just not take part," a squad source told the Telegraph.

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