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Sam Burgess takes fresh swing at English rugby and Jamie Roberts

By Ian Cameron
England's centre Sam Burgess walks out of the tunnel onto the pitch for the Captain's Run during a training session at Twickenham Stadium, south west London on September 25, 2015. England play Wales tomorrow in their second Rugby World Cup Pool A match. (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

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Former NRL star Sam Burgess has taken a fresh swipe at English rugby and Wales centre Jamie Roberts in an appearance on an rugby league podcast.

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Burgess, who represented England in both rugby league and union and played in Australia’s National Rugby League, was forced to retire early but has now set his eyes on coaching in Australian rugby league.

The 6’5, 118kg code hopper is still bitter about his ill fated season in rugby union and in an appearance on James Graham’s The Bye Round podcast, he didn’t turn up an opportunity to stick the boot into the fifteen man code.

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“They paid me a lot of money to do not a lot,” said Burgess in reference to the enormous salary he earned at Bath, which was said to have been topped up by the RFU.

“I did figure out that the politics in English rugby union was huge, from inside out. Players didn’t want to see someone else succeed.

“Some of the old players that had succeeded didn’t want to see a new team succeed. I found it all kind of strange, because as a patriotic Englishman, I think if you’re English you’re English.

“If you support England, you support England, that’s the way it is. In English rugby league we just all get behind everyone. It’s like ‘let’s fail together, succeed together, whatever, but we’re together,’ but in union I didn’t quite feel that. So after that World Cup campaign I couldn’t work for those guys anymore.”

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He also had a pop at former Wales centre Jamie Roberts, the pair having exchanged unpleasantaries in the media surrounding their game in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

“We played Wales the next week and he starts me at inside centre,” recalled Burgess. “They have Jamie Roberts who’s some big guy, but he’s just like a normal NRL player. He’s supposed to be this big fierce runner, but he wasn’t interested in contact. I think I hit him a couple of times in the game, I don’t remember him so much.”

Burgess’ dig at Roberts could be in retaliation for how Roberts had described playing the English man in his autobiography – Centre Stage – a game which Wales ulitmately won.

“As decorated as Burgess was as a rugby league player, I knew we could expose him. I was amazed that Lancaster was willing to put so much blind belief in one man. It was also a tacit acknowledgement of our strength and power: an indication that they were thinking as much about us as they were about themselves.

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“They were worried about me marauding down that channel and had deliberately picked a big lump to block my path.

“We had Burgess’s number. He didn’t have a clue. Scotty would have loved that too, after Burgess had insulted him during the week, saying, when asked about Scott in a press conference, “who’s that?”

“Earlier in the half, Scott had piled into Burgess, smashing him to the deck and dislodging the ball. As they’d returned to their feet, Scotty had looked him in the eye and said, “you know who I am now”.

Three years later Burgess would apparently send Roberts text messages about the match, in which he described himself as the man who shut him down at the World Cup.

“Three years later, my phone buzzed with an Australian number. Not recognising it, I didn’t answer, letting it go straight to voicemail. There followed a long, rambling sequence of text messages from someone referring to themselves as “the greatest” and imploring me to pick up.

“It took me a while to figure out it was Sam Burgess. He may have been under the influence, going on to describe himself as “the guy who shut me down” before England had apparently “bottled it” and replaced him with George Ford.

“When the English press combed through the wreckage of their failed campaign, they’d been desperate to find a scapegoat, and Burgess – the outsider from rugby league – had proved a convenient one.

“The public opprobrium had clearly left its mark, and all those years later it obviously still hurt.”

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