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Set for rugby switch

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

SYDNEY - Sam Burgess' NRL career appears set to end after the 2014 season, with South Sydney poised to accept an offer of over $900,000 from English rugby side Bath to release him from the final three years of his contract.

An announcement is expected to be made by the club about the future of the 25-year-old, who joined the club from Bradford in 2010.

Burgess was approached about a move to the 15-man game by England's defence coach Andy Farrell during last year's Rugby League World Cup and asked Souths owner Russell Crowe and CEO Shane Richardson before Christmas if they would allow him to leave.

Bath, who are coached by former Great Britain rugby league halfback Mike Ford, expressed interest in bringing Burgess back to the UK when sounded out by the English Rugby Football Union (RFU).

England, who do not use central contracts, are keen to have Burgess in their team for the Rugby World Cup next year and were initially willing to top up any transfer fee.

However, they were forced to alter those plans due to a backlash from Bath's premiership rival.

"Bath were contacted by the RFU and we were informed that a number of premiership clubs were also contacted and told that the RFU were interested in bringing Sam Burgess into rugby union," Bath's millionaire owner Bruce Craig told The Times.

"Those clubs were contacted and told of the opportunity: that Sam would be put on the market because the RFU would be paying the transfer fee.

"That is the truth. What we were told was they (the Rabbitohs) would release Sam from his contract and there would be an open market among the English clubs to bring Sam into the English game."

But the Sydney Morning Herald has reported that Bath managed to find the cash, and made their first official offer to the Souths board late last week.

Burgess and Sydney Roosters superstar Sonny Bill Williams are set to launch the start of the NRL season on Wednesday, February 26 in what will be their last year playing rugby league.

Williams will return to New Zealand rugby next year where he will rejoin Super Rugby champions the Chiefs as he aims to reclaim his spot in the All Blacks side for the 2015 World Cup.

England's are planning their attack on winning the World Cup for a second time with a policy of recruiting former league players with Chris Ashton, Luther Burrell, Joel Tomkins, Kyle Eastmond and Owen Farrell all part of their main squad.

Burgess' exit from Souths would increase speculation of a move for Cronulla's off-contract NSW and Australia Test forward Andrew Fifita.

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