ex-England lock david attwood has provided a compelling version of Sam Burgess’s failed experiment in rugby union. The rugby league star was signed by the NRL in Australia and debuted for Bathtub in November 2014, going on to make a England debut the following August in time for the 2015 World Cup. However, England’s group stage elimination resulted in much of the blame falling on Burgess and he soon left Bath, opting to return to the South Sydney Rabbitohs and resume his NRL career.
All these years later, the story is still a huge talking point and Attwood, a club and country mate in Burgess’s day, has now given his side of a story that began with Mike Ford signing the cross-code player to Bath and ended with Stuart Lancaster’s England missed out on the World Cup with just three games left in their group schedule.
“There were some amazing things,” Attwood said when asked about Download Rugby Pass for his recollections of the year Burgess spent together in Bath and England. “The whole organization was called into a meeting and Mike Ford showed a video of Sam Burgess’s highlights in rugby league.
“He told me: ‘These are exciting times, we have signed the best player in the world.’ Cue the video. It’s narrated by Russell Crowe, basically talking about how amazing Sam is and how great rugby league has ever been… and then, at the end, silence.
“Fordy stands up and is clapping just because everyone else is like, ‘What? What do you mean he is the best player in the world? He hasn’t even played the game before. He plays a different game, do you realize Fordy, do you realize you’ve signed someone who plays a different sport? He didn’t have the best start.
“We also had some abrasive characters on the team, so people like carl fearnswhich is very abrasive, relatively negative, and matt garveywho is the most negative person you’ve ever met in the world, they were basically left out to bring in Sam Burgess and rightfully felt their noses go up. He could have been amazing for rugby union, he really could have been an England international with 50 cappers but he was forced in too early, there was a lot of disagreement between England and Bath.
“For me he was a backline, he wasn’t a center and I felt there was an element that any power was trying to push him into that Andy Farrell mold of being a rugby league player moving into midfield. So there was a bit of a conflict between the club and the country where I was going to play and basically I didn’t understand the game philosophically.
“He was a defender who never suffered a breakdown and never jumped in a lineout. So they were trying to shoehorn him into the team and put him where he doesn’t have to do any of that, which is basically what you’re supposed to do as a third row.
“It was unfortunate that he didn’t fit the mold, and then the whole World Cup debacle fell apart and everyone blamed him. I absolutely don’t blame him for wanting to fuck off and come back. In Australia he was a fucking rock star, big business and he came to Bath where most people didn’t know who he was and the ones who did thought he was an asshole and screwed everything up.
“Everything was handled really unfairly with him and he suffered a lot of setbacks. Unfortunately for us as a squad, because he had signed this long-term deal, there were a number of guys who had their noses poked. carl fearns left, down to lyons and immediately got the player of the year award in France.
“Our team structure fell apart. He came back to Australia and left a big hole in the team. It wasn’t his fault, but he brought us down as an organization because we put all this funding into this guy and then he just suddenly disappeared.”
How much was he pocketing? “They told me it was half a million for Bath and they also told me it was a similar amount from England,” Attwood suggested, adding that as a teammate, Burgess was a decent guy. “He went straight into the WhatsApp group and the guys said, ‘Welcome Sam, show us your penis.’ He was, ‘Yeah, okay,’ instantly he sent a selfie of his penis. Nobody expected that.
“He was a really good guy, a nice guy, he worked hard, but the management of the whole place didn’t handle it very well and unfortunately he was the failed guy.”
Join for free and tell us what you really think!