Bath in talks to sign England rugby league player Sam Burgess

Burgess' World Cup highlights

Premiership rugby union side Bath are in talks to sign England rugby league international Sam Burgess.

The former Bradford Bulls forward, 25, has played for South Sydney Rabbitohs in Australia's National Rugby League for the last four years.

The Rabbitohs said no official approach had been made for Burgess.

But it is understood the Rugby Football Union (RFU) will pay to release Burgess from his contract with the Rabbitohs, whose season starts in March.

England rugby union head coach Stuart Lancaster is a known admirer of Burgess and sees him playing at centre if he switches codes.

Burgess family (L-R) Tom, George mother Julie, Luke and Sam
Sam (far right) pictured with brothers Luke, Tom and George and their mother, Julie, after making rugby league history in August.

Lancaster met Burgess in August when he was in Australia on a fact-finding mission.

He spent time with the Rabbitohs and fellow NRL side the Sydney Roosters.

Lancaster told reporters on Thursday: "The RFU hasn't made any approach for Sam. We don't centrally contract players so it will be up to a club to sign him."

He also said it would be "a challenge" for a rugby league player to make a successful transition into union in time for the 2015 World Cup.

Lancaster added: "There's a bigger picture about developing a team that goes way beyond 2015."

Burgess, originally from Dewsbury in West Yorkshire, made his Super League debut for Bradford in 2006 and went on to make 79 appearances.

In September 2009, the Rabbitohs announcedexternal-link they had signed Burgess on a four-year deal from the 2010 season.

Six months ago, Burgess made rugby league history by playing alongside older brother Luke and younger twins Tom and George as the Rabbitohs, whose majority shareholder is actor Russell Crowe, beat Sydney rivals Wests Tigers in an NRL game.

It was the first time in more than a century four siblings had played together in a top flight rugby league match in Australia.

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