Sam Burgess has revealed that he called Mike Ford a “snake” in the immediate aftermath of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
At the beginning of the 2014/2015, Burgess left NRL side, The South Sydney Rabbitohs, to join Bath who were then under the tutelage of Ford.
Burgess’ performances that season ultimately led him to be selected in Stuart Lancaster’s World Cup squad. But, as we know, England failed to get out of their pool. Defeats to Wales and Australia consigned them to become the first host nation to not reach the quarter-finals.
Burgess has often been used as a scapegoat for England’s disappointing performances in that World Cup. However, the former rugby league star has now come out and explained his side of the story to the controversy and it doesn’t paint Mike Ford in a positive light.
“I went into the World Cup and the politics went through the roof,” Burgess told the House Of Rugby podcast.
“You can all read between the lines. I think Mike Ford wanted the England job and George playing ten, and Owen (Farrell) at ten and me twelve, there was a lot going on behind the scenes that people don’t quite understand that influenced a lot of outside opinions.”
“England picked me at twelve and that is where the lines started getting murky and the politics were played and I was just right in the middle of it. It doesn’t take a genius to work out. We played the first game against Fiji and Brad Barritt and JJ (Jonathan Joseph) were twelve and 13. JJ got injured and then for game two against Wales they started Owen at ten, me at twelve and Brad at 13 and put George on the bench whereas in-game one George was at 10.
“This is where it got interesting because George is on the bench against Wales and George is upset with me during the week thinking I had orchestrated this. I went, ‘How could I orchestrate that?’ Mike’s (Ford) then done his thing in the press and it just got a bit murky. Then we lose the game against Wales which was bananas, I really don’t know how we lost…
“I just felt that people behind the scenes were playing a deeper game. The biggest thing was that Mike Ford wanted the England coaching job, so his job was to try sabotage Lancaster and his decision making and his coaching methods.”
Burgess would then go on to describe how his relationship with George Ford then changed as he recalls the England out-half refused to speak to him.
Ultimately, Burgess didn’t start in the pivotal game against the Wallabies and it seems the bridges were burned at that stage as on his return to Bath after the World Cup. He told Mike Ford that he doesn’t respect him anymore and that he believes he’s a “snake”.
“I came back from World Cup, went straight into his (Mike Ford) room and said, ‘Mike, I don’t want to play for you anymore, I don’t trust you. I think you’re playing games around my back. You used me a pawn in your game of chess. I can’t put my boots on and play for you every week’.
“When I left Bath, I left quietly, I didn’t do any media… then when I was in the air (travelling back to Australia), that is when Mike had his couple of jabs in the press.
“I had to laugh because I’ll never forget Mike’s face when I said to him, ‘Mike, I don’t respect you anymore. I don’t. I think you’re a bit of a snake’ and I’ll never forget the quiver I got from him. I had just landed back in Sydney and had to front a press conference which was huge in Australia and that (question of Burgess’ commitment) was a question.”