England could be about to pull-off their latest cross-code stunt with the stunning acquisition of rugby league star Sam Burgess, in the hope that they can fast-track the prop into their 2015 Rugby World Cup plans.
Reports claim that the 25-year-old is preparing a switch to the 15-man code, and despite both the Rugby Football Union and head coach Stuart Lancaster denying the move, the Daily Mail have claimed that a deal is in place with Burgess’s current side, the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
The Australian NRL side are owned by Hollywood actor Russell Crowe, who is a close friend of the family having overseen the signing of all four brothers Sam, George, Luke and Tom. It is believed that the deal will be given the green light once financial terms have been agreed, with a reported fee in the region of £500,000 said to be enough to release Burgess from his current contract.
Under the current plans, Burgess will move to a current Aviva Premiership side – with West Country club Bath rumoured to be the interested party – in the view of turning the current rugby league prop into an inside centre.
An approach for Burgess could have been made by former dual-code international and current England backs coach Andy Farrell as early as the Rugby League World Cup last year, in which Burgess was the standout player in an England side that suffered a heart-breaking last-minute semi-final defeat to New Zealand.
Burgess headed Down Under when he left the Bradford Bulls in 2009, and he has since become a leading star not just in the England set-up, but also across the globe as he earned the reputation of being one of the most physical players in the game.
Should Burgess complete the move, he will become the latest in a long line of rugby league converts plying their trade in the current England set-up. As it stands, Owen Farrell, Kyle Eastmond, Luther Burrell, Joel Tomkins, Chris Ashton and Stephen Myler all have previous experience in the 13-man game, while both Jason Robinson and Farrell senior have been the biggest names in recent times to join the England side.
However, the switch doesn't always succeed, with examples such as Chev Walker and Lee Smith demonstrating that the change of codes doesn't always work as the pair soon returned to league after unsuccessful spells in union.