Quit league for union, Israel Folau advises Sam Burgess
February 13, 2014
Sam Burgess will make the transition to rugby union "no problems", Israel Folau says © PA Photos
Israel Folau has urged Sam Burgess to quit rugby league for rugby union, saying the Englishman will "make the transition no problems".
Burgess has been subject recently of is he-isn't reports linking him with a move to union, with Bath Rugby to be his destination in a bid to earn England selection for the 2015 Rugby World Cup. England coach Stuart Lancaster met Burgess in August, while on a fact-finding mission to Australia, but he has been quick to distance the Rugby Football Union from any approach to the rugby league star.
"Clearly he is a world-class rugby league player," Lancaster said recently of Burgess. "But as with any player who wants to make a transition, it is going to be difficult in a short space of time. Given the competitiveness of the squad we've got at the moment, any new player coming in would have to earn their right - as everyone else has done - by playing high-quality, consistent, top-level Premiership rugby."
But cross-code convert Folau, a success at Super Rugby level with New South Wales Waratahs and in Test football with the Wallabies in his first season in union, is unabashed in advising the league star to quit the 13-man game.
"I really think he can [succeed in union], if that's what he wants to do," Folau told News Corp. "He has got a great work ethic, I'm sure if he's making the decision to come over that is what he really wants to do, and he'll make the transition no problems."
Burgess will require a release from the final two years of his National Rugby League contract with South Sydney Rabbitohs if he is to switch to union in 2014, but Lancaster is adamant the NRL star faces "a challenge, big time" if he moves this year to bid for 2015 Rugby World Cup selection "because of the nature of learning the sport and everything else that goes with it".
Lancaster said the 2019 tournament would be a more realistic aim as "there's a bigger picture about developing a team that goes way beyond 2015 as well", but Folau was excited about the prospect of facing Burgess when the Wallabies played England in the 2015 pool stage.
"A World Cup is one of the biggest experiences you can get in world sport, that is something I am really excited about," Folau told News Corp. "For Sam, if he does decide to come over, those are the type of things he'll be experiencing if he is in the game long-term."
Folau said also that he could not have envisaged the world experience he would gain when he switched to union, and he said that would be a key sales point for Burgess.
"For me coming out of league, it is a good game that I enjoyed, but when you're playing rugby it expands out to the world," Folau told News Corp. "You're going to different countries that I never imagined I would see or play in, different stadiums I wouldn't have played in if I was still in league. That is something he'd experience."
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