‘The politics in English rugby union was huge, from inside out’- Burgess on England
Former dual code England international Sam Burgess has said that he “could not work” for England rugby union following the 2015 World Cup due to behind-the-scenes politics.
As a guest on fellow rugby league legend James Graham’s The Bye Round podcast (whose head broke Burgess’ cheekbone in the 2014 NRL Grand Final), Burgess opened up on his time in union, and explained how hard he worked to make the World Cup. This ranged from playing two games a week at flanker for Bath, to then England’s three month pre World Cup training camp, where he was picked at centre.
His rugby union career is well documented, but he shed some light on the difference between the England set ups in union and league, and drew attention to some criticisms of English rugby that have been raised before.
“I did figure out that the politics in English rugby union was huge, from inside out,” the 33-year-old said. “Players didn’t want to see someone else succeed. Some of the old players that had succeeded didn’t want to see a new team succeed. I found it all kind of strange, because as a patriotic Englishman, I think if you’re English you’re English. If you support England, you support England, that’s the way it is. In English rugby league we just all get behind everyone. It’s like ‘let’s fail together, succeed together, whatever, but we’re together,’ but in union I didn’t quite feel that. So after that World Cup campaign I couldn’t work for those guys anymore.”
Burgess did not miss the opportunity to add a little bit more to the ongoing verbal battle he has had with Jamie Roberts since 2015. He said: “We played Wales the next week and he starts me at inside centre. They have Jamie Roberts who’s some big guy, but he’s just like a normal NRL player. He’s supposed to be this big fierce runner, but he wasn’t interested in contact. I think I hit him a couple of times in the game, I don’t remember him so much.”