There has never been an enigma as big as Sam Burgess.
Loved and adored in rugby league, he is often blamed for the downfall of Bath and England in rugby union.
But, one former teammate, ex-England and Bath lock Dave Attwood, isn’t surprised that Burgess came back to the 13-a-side code.
“There were some amazing things,” said Attwood when asked on RugbyPass Offload for his memories of Burgess. “The whole organisation was called into a meeting and Mike Ford played a video of Sam Burgess highlights from rugby league.
“He was like, ‘It’s exciting times, we have signed the best player in the world’. Cue the video. It’s narrated by Russell Crowe, basically talking about how amazing Sam is and is the best thing ever in rugby league… and then at the end of it, silence.
“Fordy stands up and he is clapping on his own because everyone else is like, ‘What? What do you mean he is the best player in the world? He hasn’t even played the game before. He plays a different game, you do realise that Fordy, you realise you have signed someone who plays a different sport?’ It didn’t get off to the best start.”
Attwood reveals that even before Burgess got there there were players who were against him joining Bath, but he also feels the hulking Bradfordian was played in the wrong position.
“We had a few abrasive characters in the squad as well so people like Carl Fearns, who is very abrasive, relative negative, and Matt Garvey, who is the most negative person you have ever met in the world, basically were pushed aside to bring Sam Burgess in and they rightly felt their nose was put out of joint. He could have been amazing for rugby union, he genuinely could have been a 50-capper England international but they forced him in too soon, there was a lot of disagreement between England and Bath.
“For me, he was a back row, he wasn’t a centre and I felt there was an element that whatever powers were trying to push him in that Andy Farrell mould of being a rugby league player moving into midfield. So there was a bit of conflict between club and country where he was going to play and he basically didn’t understand the game philosophically.
“He was a back row who never ever hit a breakdown and never jumped in a lineout. So they were trying to shoehorn him into the team and play him where he doesn’t have to do any of that stuff, which is basically what you are supposed to do as a back row.”
Attwood isn’t surprised, either, that Burgess left the sport.
“It was unfortunate that he didn’t fit the mould, and then the whole World Cup debacle fell apart and everyone blamed him. I absolutely don’t blame him for wanting to f*** off and go back. In Australia, he was a f***in’ rock star, a massive deal and he came to Bath where most people didn’t know who he was and those who did think he is an arsehole and f***ed everything up.
“The structure of our team fell apart. He went back to Australia and left a great big f***ing hole in the squad. It wasn’t his fault but it left us down as an organisation because we had all of this finance put into this guy and he then suddenly disappeared.”