<
>

England's handling of Sam Burgess under renewed scrutiny and criticism

England's handling of Sam Burgess has come in for renewed scrutiny and criticism after his return to rugby league was rubber-stamped.

Burgess has signed a three-year contract with South Sydney, the NRL team he left last year for Bath Rugby and the opportunity to play for England in the Rugby World Cup, and England World Cup winner Will Greenwood said on Twitter that "rugby union has let the lad down".

Burgess, 26, was a scapegoat to many for the failure of Stuart Lancaster's England team at the World Cup, at which tournament he was used at inside centre having also played his club rugby in the back-row.

England colleague James Haskell said that Burgess had "to be pretty happy" with his achievements in such a short period of time, but former Test players were dismissive of the efforts to integrate a world-class player from the 13-man code into top-level union. Former England fly-half Olly Barkley said the Rugby Football Union "should hold their hand up", while Former Wales dual-code international Jonathan Davies said "it's been a total shambles for everyone involved".

Wasps flanker Haskell, who spent weeks on end with Burgess during the World Cup campaign, said: "I'm sad because I'm losing a friend and rugby union is losing a star in the making but you can understand why he's doing it."

Haskell rejected speculation there were players envious of Burgess within the England squad, after his rapid, much-hyped elevation to the international scene.

"Sam's the kind of guy who did everything for the team," Haskell told BBC Radio Five Live. "I'm sorry to see a mate go across. Bath fans will miss him, I think the Bath boys will miss him, whoever gets back into the England squad will miss him because he's a top man and a good character.

"He's an unbelievable rugby league player, a guy who gave it his best shot at rugby union and made the England team and made the World Cup."

From rugby league, St Helens captain Jon Wilkin said that Burgess was simply missing his family too much - with his brothers Luke, Tom and George all playing rugby league in Australia, Tom and George both with the Rabbitohs. "Being in this country away from his twin younger brothers, away from his mother, who had all relocated to Sydney to be with Sam, has been a big stretch for him," Wilkin said.

Looking at the World Cup role handed to Burgess, Wilkin said: "I was one of those guys who thought he probably wasn't ready, and in fact he wasn't ready. England have got to learn lessons about how they recruit players, how they promote players, and the time in which to do that."