Former England rugby union centre Sam Burgess is being investigated by New South Wales organised crime unit, it has emerged. The news comes after an explosive article in The Australian made serious allegations against the South Sydney Rabbitohs league star.

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“An investigation has been commenced by the organised crime squad under Strike Force Irrabella,” NSW police said in a statement. The NRL’s integrity unit are also now investigating the reports which have rocked Australian sport.

Mark O’Brien, Burgess’ legal representative has denied the allegation made against his client in the report: “The allegations are false and constitute an indefensible defamation against my client,” Mr O’Brien said in a statement made to the Australian media.

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Burgess has reportedly stood himself down at the club pending an investigation. The South Sydney Rabbitohs issued the following statement on Friday: “The allegations in today’s The Australian newspaper are very concerning and the club is treating them with the utmost seriousness. There is no place in our society for violence, harassment or abuse against women. If anyone is found guilty of allegations of this nature, the club will take the strongest possible action.

“The club takes issues of drug use very seriously and has well-established policies and procedures in place around the use of performance enhancing or illicit/recreational/prescription drugs. The Club will continue to work closely with ASADA and the NRL which administer testing of the players. The Club will also continue to work with the playing group to support their wellbeing and educate them about drug use.

Sam Burgess

Sam Burgess /Getty

“The Rabbitohs welcome the NRL Integrity Unit’s investigation in relation to these allegations and will fully cooperate with the investigation. The Club is supportive of Sam Burgess’s decision to step down from his role at the Club while the NRL Integrity Unit investigation is underway.”

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Burgess was the Rabbitohs’ leading forward from his NRL debut in 2010 until he retired last year. He represented England five times, including at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

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