Sam Burgess says he is coming back to the game he loves.
The dual England international will return to the NRL with South Sydney next year after just one season away in rugby union, a stint that culminated in a controversial Rugby World Cup campaign for his country.
In a column for England’s Daily Mail, Burgess wrote that personal reasons and his undying love for rugby league led to his return to the 13-a-side-code.
“My decision to leave Bath and move back to Australia was for personal reasons, but it was also because I wanted to spend the rest of my career playing the game that’s in my heart,” Burgess wrote.
“Rugby league is in my heart. I’m looking forward to getting back to Sydney, where I’ll be with my family and playing for the Rabbitohs alongside my brothers again.
“I don’t have any regrets about playing union. I enjoyed it and met so many good people. I’ve got a lot of good friendships from it, but at the end of the day, the game just didn’t give me as much enjoyment as rugby league gives me.”
Burgess wrote that he enjoys the greater physicality of rugby league.
“Looking back, that’s what makes me love the game so much; the actual physical battle of it. Yeah, union is tough, there are tough parts of it, but I never found myself reaching that point (of fatigue). League took me to places I’d never been before in games but I never found that in union.”
The 26-year-old said he was planning to start a family with fiancee Phoebe Hooke and the couple preferred to do that in Sydney.
Burgess said he felt his development was stifled by being asked to play as a loose forward and then as a centre.
He defended the RFU’s and England coach Stuart Lancaster’s handling of his transition to rugby. But said he was frustrated by the agenda of those within the game including ex-players and the media.
“Some ex-players just kept letting rip. It was a losing battle from day one. I couldn’t believe it. It’s almost like they don’t want anyone else to do well in the jersey. That’s definitely the feeling I got in rugby union,” Burgess wrote.
Burgess personally informed Lancaster and Bath coach Mike Ford and captain Stuart Hooper of his decision. But he wasn’t permitted to explain his decision to the Bath playing group.
“I wanted to go in and see the team, to get my point across, but Stuart Hooper, our captain, said he didn’t think I’d be well received there, which was fair enough if that’s how he felt. I wanted to go and say goodbye, not just as a teammate but as a friend, but that didn’t happen.”
However Burgess wrote that his former England and Bath teammates that he did speak to, understood his decision.
Either way Burgess is glad to be back in rugby league.
“I felt I was never going to win, regardless of what happened, so I thought: ‘I’m going to stop wasting my own time and everyone else’s time here.'”.