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The South Sydney Rabbitohs have released forward Sam Burgess from the final two years of his NRL contract, finishing up his time at the Rabbitohs at the conclusion of the 2014 season.
Burgess remains contracted to the Rabbitohs for season 2014 and is set to head to England to play rugby union for Bath Rugby at the end of the year to fulfill a long-held ambition to become a dual-international, with the opportunity to play in the 2015 Rugby World Cup and English club rugby success.
The Rabbitohs recently received a request from Burgess for a release from his contract which, after long discussions, has been granted, with the Rabbitohs negotiating an undisclosed release fee.
The Rabbitohs have also negotiated a clause in the release that the Club has first and last offer on Burgess’ services should he return to Rugby League in the future.
Burgess said he has always had ambitions to become a dual-international, however his job at the Rabbitohs is not complete.
“I’m happy this has all been sorted out before the start of the season so that I can concentrate on my game and the team without any other things in the way,” Burgess said.
“An opportunity presented itself to head back home to England and to pursue a chance to represent my country in two different sports.
“With 2015 being a Rugby World Cup, it was an opportunity I had to pursue and I thank the Rabbitohs for allowing me to make this move and start the next chapter in my sporting career.
“But all of that starts next season.
“We have a great opportunity in front of us now as a group and I’ll be doing my best every week to help us win each game and hopefully improve on what we’ve been able to achieve in the past two seasons.
“My team mates, coaches, staff and the Rabbitohs Members have been a huge support to me over the past four seasons and hopefully I can repay that support in 2014.”
Rabbitohs Head Coach Michael Maguire said Burgess and the team are focussed on the Rabbitohs’ targets for 2014.
“Sam remains completely focussed on his job with the Rabbitohs this season,” Coach Maguire said.
“Sam has made a real impact on the NRL over the past four seasons and his focus is on his job here at Souths, as we’re all focussed on our goals for this year.”
Full video at Rabbitohs.com.au - click here.
UPDATE - statement from Bath Rugby:
Bath Rugby are excited to confirm that English Rugby League sensation Sam Burgess has chosen to sign a three year deal with the Club, which will see him cross codes and arrive at the Recreation Ground this October.
The 25 year old is currently playing in the NRL with the South Sydney Rabbitohs and, despite having received far more lucrative offers from elsewhere, has chosen to join Bath at the culmination of the Australian rugby league season. He has represented both England and Great Britain, scoring seven tries in his 13 appearances for England.
At 6ft 5in and 18st, power and strength are obvious qualities, however he is also known for his deft handling and as a strong leader.
On his decision to make the cross-code switch, Burgess commented: "This has been a tough decision for me to make, as I've loved my time in Sydney with the Rabbitohs. However, I'm very excited about the challenge that this move offers me.
"Bath are a very ambitious Club, who have a talented young squad, brilliant coaches and a world class set-up and ethos, and I can't wait to get my head down and start learning the game. Having said that, until the move, my focus will be completely on the Rabbitohs and helping them go one step further."
Bath Head Coach, Mike Ford, added: "I've known Sam since his rugby league days in England and he is an exceptionally talented athlete. He's hard working, a huge presence both on and off the field, and an ambitious young Englishman, all of which are qualities that we are building our squad around. I've no doubt Sam will fit in seamlessly here at Bath and we're looking forward to having him join us and start making the transition."