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Rugby League

Steve McNamara looking to Burgess twins Tom and George to step-up and replace union-bound brother Sam Burgess

The England head coach admits English rugby league is losing its 'crown jewel' but is hopeful that a young player like his younger brothers will use the opportunity to make a name for themselves

England coach Steve McNamara is hoping twins Tom and George Burgess can help fill the void in his team created by the loss of older brother Sam.

McNamara, who gave Sam Burgess his Super League debut at Bradford in 2006, described the South Sydney forward as the "jewel in the crown of rugby league", but will now prepare for the end-of-season Four Nations Series in Australia and New Zealand without the 25-year-old.

Sam Burgess played alongside his 21-year-old brothers in the 2013 World Cup, as well as for the Rabbitohs, and McNamara expects the youngsters to make further progress in the new NRL season which kicks off next month.

McNamara, who is working as an assistant coach at Sydney Roosters, is also confident that the Super League can continue to produce world-class players.

"We recognise Sam is a huge loss to the game of rugby league, and particularly the England team, but we'll just have to deal with it," McNamara said.

"We produce fantastic players and, because we do such a good job in that area, other sports will look at our players.

"It's very difficult to replace someone like Sam like for like, but you've seen the rise to prominence of George Burgess and Tom Burgess and there could be a few others who spring up as well.

"I notice St Helens re-signed Jonny Lomax recently on a four-year deal."

Meanwhile, Salford Red Devils owner Marwan Koukash has claimed he was ready to sign Burgess for 2015 and insists he will make another bid for him when his contract is up with Bath.

Koukash, who failed with a £1million bid for Sam Tomkins and has also talked of luring the likes of Sonny Bill Williams and Billy Slater to Barton, wants a relaxation of the Super League salary cap to lure the stars to his club.

"Sam was very much in our plans here at Salford," Koukash told the Manchester Evening News. "I have held discussions with his management team and it is very disappointing to now see a player of this stature going into rugby union.

"But when his contract is up, I can assure our fans a contract will again be on the table for him to consider coming back to Super League and playing for Salford. I have always said it was my intention to bring the best players to Salford.

"We were very interested in Sam and were serious about our offer. I have already said our players will continue to leave our game if we do not raise the salary cap."