South Sydney fans might be dancing in the streets of Redfern following Sam Burgess’s defection back to the NRL but it has prompted calls for bloodletting in English rugby union circles.
A spurned Burgess has signed a three-year deal to return to the Rabbitohs starting next season after being made a scapegoat for England’s Rugby Union World Cup failure.
Burgess’ move back to South Sydney just one season into a three-year union deal has been lauded by Australian league fans hungry to see the hard-hitting forward back in the 13-man code.
However, back in the UK, his defection has resulted in a stream of press criticism for both the 26-year-old and the union officials who encouraged his code hope last year.
London’s The Telegraph slammed “Slammin’ Sam”, calling him a “flop” and predicted his premature departure will impact on English coach Stuart Lancaster’s future.
The paper’s rugby union correspondent, Mick Cleary, mocked Souths owner Russell Crowe’s description of Burgess as “the sparkly-eyed one” before laying the boot in.
“The supposed leader of men has succeeded only in leading many people up the garden path, notably Stuart Lancaster,” Cleary wrote.
The Mirror was similarly stinging of the dual international and said whoever was responsible for luring him over to union should be “named and shamed”.
“The Sam Burgess affair makes me feel sorry and furious,” the paper’s Matt Dawson wrote.
“Sorry for Burgess and steaming with anger at whoever thought it would be a good idea to persuade him he could be a World Cup-standard centre eight months after switching over from rugby league.
“Whoever made that promise needs naming and shaming. But I am not holding my breath.”
World Cup-winning England coach Clive Woodward used his Daily Mail column to declare English rugby union a “laughing stock” as a result of the episode.
“I said last week that Sam Burgess is not to blame for this mess and I stand by it,” Woodward said.
“But with his return to rugby league we’ve reached one of the all-time lows and most embarrassing points in English rugby history.”