English rugby chief Ian Ritchie has refused to admit that Sam Burgess’ failure in rugby union led directly to Stuart Lancaster’s England downfall.
Lancaster agreed to relinquish his head coach role on Wednesday, leaving England bosses scouring the globe for his replacement.
Burgess quit Bath last week after just 12 months in union, returning to rugby league and South Sydney despite forcing his way into England’s dismal World Cup campaign.
Ritchie again insisted the Rugby Football Union (RFU) made no cash investment into Burgess’ high-profile code switch, and defended the 26-year-old’s contribution.
Ritchie replied “Not at all” when asked if the Burgess situation directly affected Lancaster’s departure.
“I don’t find the Sam Burgess situation in any way embarrassing,” said Ritchie.
“We had one of the leading rugby league players in the world wanting to come and play rugby union, and I think that was a positive.
“We were delighted that he wanted to come and delighted that he came.
“We did not pay a sum of money for Sam Burgess to come to rugby union and there was no insistence from Stuart, or anyone else at the RFU, that he had to be picked.
“He came here because he wanted to.
“He was trained and coached, as far as the RFU was concerned, in absolutely the right way.”
Bath have vented their anger over Burgess’ quick-fire departure this week, head coach Mike Ford claiming the league superstar “didn’t have the stomach” to fight for a future in union.
Ritchie accepted disappointment at Burgess’ choice, but refused to lay any blame at the former Bradford Bulls lock’s door.
“Obviously one’s disappointed that he’s chosen to go back, but that has to be a matter for him,” said Ritchie.
“Sam made that contribution and his selection for the squad was made on the basis of rugby, and that was the selection made by the head coach.
“And clearly he made his decision for the reasons he has outlined, which was outside of my control.
“So I do not see and I do not understand how the RFU could have done anything different from what we did.
“Here was a talented rugby player and athlete who was selected in the squad, and he made a full contribution during training while he was in the squad.
“Everybody can have a view on whether it was the right or the wrong call to select him.
“But I don’t see what else could have happened during that process and I feel no embarrassment at all about what happened with Sam Burgess.”