Sam Burgess to begin union career in centres
August 27, 2014
Sam Burgess is set to make his union bow in November © Getty Images
Bath head coach Mike Ford has confirmed rugby league star Sam Burgess will begin his union career in the centres.
Burgess will join Bath at the end of the NRL season with his team the Rabbitohs set to reach the final. If they achieve that feat, Burgess is likely to arrive in mid-October with a view to playing his first game of union in November.
There were original reports Ford saw Burgess as a blindside or No.8 and he could yet end up there, but his first exposure to rugby will be in the backs.
"We've got a plan for him in the centres to start with, but my gut feeling is he will end up in the pack," Ford said. "Whether that will be Christmas, whether it will be Christmas 2015 who knows? He's here for a long time so we're not too worried about that."
When rumours of Burgess' switch to union came to light, the Rugby Football Union was reported to be footing some of the transfer fee and his wages but Bath ended up purchasing the player solely with their own funds. Stuart Lancaster has previously said he sees Burgess as a centre but Ford says Bath will have jurisdiction over the management of his switch to union.
"They've got nothing to do with him, the RFU have got no say in his development at Bath rugby," Ford added. "They haven't asked us to play him at centre, but clearly I've spoken to Stuart and we're on the same lines. He again wants Sam Burgess to be Sam Burgess."
When Kyle Eastmond made his switch from league to union, much of his first season was blighted with injury. For Ford, central to the transition from one code to the other will be careful management of Burgess and he will not rush him.
"When he arrives we're going to have a look at him. I think South Sydney will get to the grand final this year they are playing that well. So he'll have to be refreshed mentally and physically, give him a couple of weeks off, let him look at the game, learn the game, learn what the ruck's all about, the fundamentals of the game.
"We'll see how he is. The last thing I want to do is for us to get to March, April time and for him to be burned out. We've got to really look after him, it's a tough league. We've got a plan for him now, but there's so many variables that can happen between now and then.
"Clearly we'll probably look at him in the centres first and foremost, let him learn the game from afar really. But if he's doing 60 plays a game in the NRL then you don't really want him playing on the wing do you, in rugby union."
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Tom Hamilton is the Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.