Sam Burgess has spoken out about his controversial decision to leave rugby union and complete a swift return to the South Sydney Rabbitohs, stressing that such a choice was made for family reasons as well as admitting that his heart just was simply not in it.
The 26-year-old, who officially switched codes in October 2014, further claims that he was initially looking towards Christmas as a potential departure date and rejects any notion that he has been poorly treated by the Rugby Football Union (RFU).
After moving to the Rec amid much fanfare following a courageous man of the match performance in the NRL grand final in which he played almost the entire game with a fractured eye socket and cheekbone, Burgess was initially deployed at centre in the Aviva Premiership before head coach Mike Ford made the decision to switch him to blindside flanker.
Despite that change, however, England still retained hope that he could help fill the sizable void vacated in midfield by Manu Tuilagi and fast-tracked the former Bradford Bulls star into Stuart Lancaster's World Cup squad ahead of proven performers such as Luther Burrell and club teammate Kyle Eastmond.
The tournament eventually proved to be an abject disaster for the host nation, who became the first team to exit their own competition at the pool stage after consecutive defeats to Wales and Australia at Twickenham. In the former contest, Lancaster came in for sustained criticism as a result of his team selection which included a first international union start for Burgess as England attempted to negate the physicality of Jamie Roberts.
"My decision to leave Bath and move back to Australia was for personal reasons, but it was also because I wanted to spend the rest of my career playing the game that's in my heart," Burgess, who was left out of the matchday squad altogether for the victory over Uruguay and was yet to play for Bath this season, revealed in a column for the Mail. "Rugby league is in my heart. I'm looking forward to getting back to Sydney, where I'll be with my family and playing for the Rabbitohs alongside my brothers again.
"Part of me is disappointed to be leaving. Everyone is saying I've taken the easy option but it would have been easier to stay and play on in union. I could have just kept playing at six for Bath, but I believe it would have taken about 18 months for me to break into the England team in that position — and my contract is up in about 18 months. In sport we have a very limited window in which to compete at the top level and I didn't want to see those 18 months go by without the same excitement and enthusiasm as the previous 12."
On suggestions that he has been mistreated by English rugby's governing body, he added: "The RFU have come in for a lot of stick for my decision, which I think is unfair. They didn't make it for me. They didn't push me into it. In fact, they have been supportive through it all. I disagree with this idea that I have been let down or treated badly. The RFU have not treated me badly."
Although Burgess admits that the months spent building up to the World Cup were probably the most enjoyable of his short union career, he lamented what he felt was an agenda from some ex-players who pursued both himself and Lancaster with unhelpful comments in the media. He also made the honest admission that he found the intensely physical nature of league more enjoyable.
He added: "That was an upsetting factor to me; that people who are supposed to love the game are actually tearing it to shreds. I felt like certain people didn't want England and Stuart Lancaster to succeed. They were after him — so aggressively. He could never do a thing right, no matter what. I was right in the middle of that and it is unbelievable. It's not a productive place to be."