Sam Burgess will be named in Bath’s squad for their Aviva Premiership clash with London Irish on Saturday after coach Mike Ford insisted the dual-code international would fulfil his contract.
Burgess is thought to be seeking a route back to the NRL with South Sydney after growing disillusioned with life in rugby union, but there is little appetite at the Recreation Ground to sanction his departure only one year into his three-year deal.
The 26-year-old was granted a 10-day break in Spain soon after his return from England’s dismal World Cup and he resumed training with Bath on Monday amid intense speculation over his future, with Super League champions Leeds stating their interest in signing him.
Ford insists Burgess has not asked to leave and that he will feature among the 23 selected for the looming trip to the Madejski Stadium.
“Yes we expect Sam to stay. He has got two years left on his contract. Sam will be playing on Saturday. He’s cracking on and rolling his sleeves up,” Ford said.
Burgess started the loss to Wales and made replacement appearances against Fiji and Australia as England’s ill-fated World Cup unravelled spectacularly, ending in failure to progress from the group stage for the first time.
He was used as an inside centre, although he played his best rugby last season at blindside flanker – the position where Bath are adamant that his union future lies.
Upon completion of England 2015, he came off the bench in the Premiership opener against Exeter before Ford decided he was jaded and so gave him time off to gather his thoughts.
“Sam wanted to come in and the plan was for him to be picked on the bench for the first two Premiership games of the season and then start the next two,” Ford said.
“He came to training and played the first game, but then he came to training on the Tuesday after and that’s when it hit him.
“After the World Cup, it hits people in different ways. Everyone is different and with Sam it was a case of go away, take 10 days off. In that time there’s been a lot of speculation.
“We’ve talked about the future. We talked about this being the time when he makes great strides in rugby union. We couldn’t wait for him to come back.”
Leeds have publicly expressed interest in signing Burgess.
“Clearly South Sydney would be favourites but if that proves difficult, certainly for 2016,” Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington told Press Association Sport.