Last weekend it was confirmed that Sam Burgess has bailed on Rugby Union; the England ‘Centre’ or ‘Bath Back Row Forward’ who was going to save all-and-sundry at the Rugby World Cup, has now bailed on the code he barely gave a chance to. But really, no one can blame him.
A lot of people have written about Sam Burgess and all of the issues surrounding him and his switch from Rugby League in 2013. But the whole Rugby World Cup, not just this issue, has left me personally just feeling really disappointed as an England supporter.
The 2015 World Cup event just hosted in the United Kingdom was the best one yet–it was the most successful commercially, there was some lovely rugby played, it has been won by the best team in the world [New Zealand] and with the help of a man who probably put on the ‘second best’ performance by a fly half, of all time. Plus, every rugby fan could never forget that Japanese victory over South Africa. But the England team had nothing to do with it which is at the heart of my feelings.
In fact, to the rest of the world, the England rugby side must have looked like ‘idiots’ kicking to corners and selecting players with no international experience out of their position. The team were also being led by a captain who is not empowered to lead his own club, all the while expecting to win the World Cup because England Rugby believed it was their divine right. This side was arrogant, they were disappointing and team I (and many others) supported were truly awful.
This disappointment is a feeling many experienced often with England. If you recall during the failed 2007 Cup campaign, fans almost wanted to support Wales because of how poorly England had become and all of the resulting stories surrounding the aftermath of that failed attempt to defend the 2003 title. The reason fans are so angry and disappointed in particular around the Sam Burgess debacle is because of how cheap it has made England look. A number of people throughout this brilliant game of Rugby have allowed a man with no pedigree within the sport to come along and ‘steal a World Cup place’ from much more worthy candidates.
In my own work in the game of Football, I have always championed Rugby as a wonderful sport that really does have the upper hand in many areas over football. That is in player respect for each other, respect for the officials, the sportsmanship on show in Rugby but this argument is slowly being eroded away. Myself, I am finding it harder and harder to defend the game that so many truly love; because people only too often focus on the ‘negatives’ surrounding the sport, they never see the positives.
Sam Burgess didn’t really give himself enough time to fully pick-up the sport of Rugby in many have commented and also, he wouldn’t have planned on quitting after just one season in English rugby. But let’s face it, to get to the top in any sport you need to learn your craft. You can’t do that in a single year. Burgess must have known this would be difficult. He must know how long it takes to become World Class in any sport–just because he did it in Rugby League, does not mean he would naturally succeed immediately, so why did he believe that this would be any different?
It makes every player who has worked incredibly hard for their entire lives mad. Having traveled up and down the country on Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings,. The investment from parents who may have spent fortunes and fortunes in petrol, in sports equipment and in time given up each Wednesday night for the last 15 years, to take their son or daughter to training. This incident makes a mockery of all those values.
It is shameful the disrespect that England Rugby have piled onto the masses, embarrassment on hard working grass roots coaches and volunteers, and let down the children who toil in the mud and the dirt, to live up to their heroes who have so wildly failed them.
In this instance, in essence many want to say ‘good riddance” to Sam Burgess. I hope he carries on where he left off for South Sydney Rugby League side and that he gets back to the top of that NRL mountain again, our argument while about him is not personally with the man. But he was no good for the image of Rugby Union in this country in this reporters mind and he clearly had far too much media attention on him. He so often was the story far too much than the talent he showed in Rugby, and hopefully now England Rugby can get on with being a team once again.
In 2014/2015, England Rugby have squandered their greatest opportunity in this country to finally rival the might of the Barclays Premier League. To show the fans in the United Kingdom why Rugby can be such a fantastic sport. To demonstrate why people should give it their time (and attention in this busy market) and for the nation to get behind the team. But they blew it, and ‘Burgess Bails’ will be a lasting memory.
Now sadly, Rugby is going to have to start off all over again building and re-developing its support base.
Nevertheless, stiff upper lip and all that. Onwards and upwards to the Six Nations I say. Lets see what mess we can dig ourselves out of this time chaps.