Sam Burgess has accused his former Bath coach Mike Ford of behaving like “a snake” and being a disruptive influence on England during the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Burgess crossed codes from rugby league to rugby union in 2014, signing for Bath, and was fast-tracked into the England squad by Stuart Lancaster.
But the World Cup experience turned sour, with hosts England knocked out in the pool stage after losing to Wales and Australia.
Burgess was chosen at centre for the Wales game, England’s second pool fixture, and has claimed George Ford, named as a substitute, was “upset” with the decision.
Mike Ford, who is George Ford’s father, was “doing his thing in the press” in the build-up to the Wales game as the situation became “a bit murky”, according to Burgess.
And Burgess alleged Mike Ford was looking to “sabotage Lancaster” because he wanted the England job for himself.
“With George being his son, he [Mike Ford] kind of infiltrated the camp – that is my take on it,” said Burgess, speaking to the House of Rugby podcast.
“After me starting against Wales, my relationship with George completely changed. He wouldn’t talk to me, he was a bit sulky.”
Burgess was replaced by George Ford with 10 minutes to play against Wales, and England went on to surrender their lead after the change.
“Knowing what I know now, I see the politics,” Burgess said. “George came on with 10 minutes to go to please Mike, to keep Mike happy and to keep George happy. We didn’t need him on, we had the team to finish the game.”
Burgess has “so many fond memories” of his time at Bath, and friends from his time with the club.
But he said he struggled to see the right level of commitment from certain members of the squad, and Burgess became increasingly disenfranchised with union when it came to the World Cup with England, saying he had to ask Mike Ford to stop talking about him in the media.
“Obviously the politics went through the roof,” Burgess said of the World Cup experience.
“The politics of – you can all read between the lines – I think Mike Ford wanted the England job, then George playing 10, and Owen [Farrell] 10 and me 12. There was a lot going on behind the scenes that I think people probably don’t quite understand which influenced a lot of outside opinions.”
I seem to be getting a few tweets regarding the Rugby WC in 2015….Still. If people actually rewatched the games I participated in You will see I added to the team. What cost us an early exit was individual egos and selfish players not following our leader. Which ….
— Sam Burgess (@SamBurgess8) November 27, 2018
When Burgess went back to Bath, he found it impossible to get on with Mike Ford.
“I couldn’t sit in the same room as Mike. I had to tell him I couldn’t play for him anymore, I’d lost respect for him. It was pretty hot if I’m honest,” said Burgess.
“I came back from the World Cup and literally went straight into his office and said, ‘Hey Mike, I don’t trust you, I think you’ve been playing games behind my back, you have used me as a bit of a pawn in your game of chess, I can’t put my boots on and play for you every week’.”
Burgess said he was sent away on holiday but returned with the same view and soon returned to rugby league with South Sydney Rabbitohs.
He said: “I will never forget Mike’s face when I said to him, ‘Mike, I don’t respect you anymore, I really don’t, I think you are a bit of a snake’. I’ll never forget the little quiver that I got from him.”
Stats Perform News has approached Leicester Tigers, where Mike Ford is now a coach, for a reply to the accusations from Burgess.
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