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'Sometimes within the England team we do have that problem of egos or cliques or groups, people put on pedestals'

By Liam Heagney

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Former England full-back Mike Brown has admitted he doesn’t hold a grudge against Sam Burgess after the league-cum-union covert blamed “individual egos and selfish players” for his country’s spectacular failure at the 2015 World Cup.


Stuart Lancaster’s England bombed out at the pool stage of their home World Cup and the fallout that ensued resulted in Burgess, who had initially made his name in professional rugby with the NRL Rabbitohs in Australia, quitting union and returning to rugby league after a short-lived union career amounted to just five caps, his last three coming at the ill-fated World Cup.

Fed up with people blaming him for England’s 2015 failure, Burgess took to Twitter in November 2018 to fight his corner. He wrote: “I seem to be getting a few tweets regarding the RWC in 2015… still. If people actually rewatched the games I participated in, you will see I added to the team.

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Mike Brown joins Jamie Roberts on the latest RugbyPass Offload

“What cost us an early exit was individual egos and selfish players not following our leader, which essentially cost the coach and other great men their jobs. Tournaments are not won by the coaching staff or one player. It takes a commitment from the full group. I guarantee you this: I was committed but others had their own agendas.

“I have fond memories of my time in rugby union and some great friends. One day I will tell my side of the story but, for now, I love watching England and cannot wait to see them as they prepare for the 2019 World Cup in Japan.”

Burgess did eventually tell his side of the story during a June 2020 appearance on the House of Rugby podcast, in particular venting about the alleged negative influence of his Bath coach at the time, Mike Ford, whose son George lost his place in the England team to Burgess for the crucial RWC pool game with Wales.


Recalling a post-finals meeting at Bath shortly before his exit from the club, Burgess said: “I will never forget his [Mike Ford’s face when I said: ‘I can’t respect you, I think you are a bit of a snake.’ I just felt that people behind the scenes were playing a deeper game. With George, Mike kind of infiltrated the camp; that is my take on it. After me starting against Wales, my relationship with George completely changed. He wouldn’t talk to me, he was a bit sulky.”

Seven months later, England full-back Brown has given his take on the Burgess with England saga. Speaking during an appearance on the latest RugbyPass Offload show with Wales midfielder Jamie Roberts, Brown claimed he wasn’t upset by the ‘individual egos and selfish players’ accusation made by Burgess.

“Not annoyed at all because that is his opinion. He might be talking about me, I don’t know. I have never asked him. But he clearly has that opinion and who am I to say the guys weren’t acting like that? Who am I to say how he should be feeling about it?

“I can say that sometimes within the England team we do have that problem of maybe egos or cliques or groups, people put on pedestals. That comes with maybe not being centrally contracted, the match fees.


“You are all trying to not just play for England because it is England and that’s what you dreamed of, there is obviously a match fee bonus as well and it’s very, very lucrative and you want that so then you can end up with backstabbing and egos and things like that.

“That can have a detrimental impact on team morale. That is not a great thing. Under Eddie (Jones) it’s slightly better in terms of cliques, so maybe that was what Burg’ was talking about. Again, I haven’t spoken to him one-on-one about it.

“I remember messaging him after he quit rugby and went back, just saying to him, ‘I’m disappointed that you have quit and you’re leaving rugby and going back to rugby league because I feel like we have all got a responsibility to try and change this and turn a corner with England and put things right but I respect your decision and really enjoyed working alongside you’.

“That’s the message that I sent to him because I still feel he could have been a quality rugby union player if he just stuck at it, but again who am I to say he should have done that with what he was going through and what he was having to deal with.”

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'Sometimes within the England team we do have that problem of egos or cliques or groups, people put on pedestals'