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England coach Steve McNamara is backing talented Sam Burgess
Bath are favourites to lure the 25-year-old former Bradford forward to the Aviva Premiership in a deal which, it has been claimed, could be part-funded by the Rugby Football Union.
Both the RFU and Burgess’ Australian club South Sydney have played down the speculation but it is thought a deal will go through if Bath are prepared to meet the asking price of around £500,000 for a player still under contract to the end of 2016.
“It’s absolutely everywhere,” Sydney-based Roosters assistant coach said of the proposed Burgess switch.
“Right now it is all speculation, nobody has come out and said he’s going.
“But we all recognise what a huge loss he would be to the game of rugby league and specifically the England team.
“He was pretty sensational for us at the end of last season. Sam is the jewel in the crown of rugby league at the minute but I’m sure he will make the best decision for himself.”
Burgess, who was man of the match in England’s World Cup semi-final defeat by New Zealand at Wembley in November and runner-up to Jonathan Thurston as 2013 Golden Boot winner, is seen as a likely future England captain if he stays in the game.
As Bulls coach, McNamara gave Burgess his Super League debut at the age of 17 and was assistant to Great Britain boss Tony Smith when the former made his international debut against New Zealand in 2007.
He has yet to speak to Burgess over his proposed switch but has no doubt the player could adapt to the 15-man code, where he is seen as an inside centre.
“He’s not talked directly about his plans,” McNamara said. “We speak a fair bit about various things.
“He was very young at Bradford, going through some pretty tough times, with his father’s illness and learning to be a Super League player, and we are very close in terms of that.
“Sam will speak to me at the right time I am sure.
“I just think he’s a fantastic physical specimen. He’s got great skills, is quick for a big man, he’s got all the attributes to be probably whatever he wants to be.
“Hopefully, he’ll stay in rugby league and hopefully he’ll continue to be part of the Souths and England rugby league team.
“But I am sure, if he did decide to change sports, he would be a success.”
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