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Burgess torn as Lions tour beckons

Decisions, decisions ... Luke Burgess is considering cutting short his stint with Toulouse to return to Australia.

Decisions, decisions ... Luke Burgess is considering cutting short his stint with Toulouse to return to Australia. Photo: Getty Images

PARIS: Luke Burgess has thrown himself into life in rugby-mad southern France. The former Wallabies halfback, who left Australia near the height of his career, is taking French lessons twice a week and relishing a comparatively anonymous existence in Toulouse, where rugby is ''life and death''.

Burgess and his wife Emilie are expecting their first child within days and last week celebrated the passing of one challenging but riveting year in France.

So it is no small decision the 28-year-old faces as he mulls an open invitation from Wallabies coach Robbie Deans to return to Australia and make himself available for the British and Irish Lions tour next winter.

"I'm tempted, I'll say that. I haven't ruled it out or in," Burgess said.

"The Lions are a big thing for any rugby player, so I'm tempted, but you can't always give in to temptation. We're expecting a baby next week so my decisions aren't my own any more, I've got to consider my family and the career that I have left."

Burgess's mooted return to Australian rugby was first raised ahead of the final Bledisloe Test in Brisbane. Deans sounded out his former second-choice halfback with the spring tour in mind but the performances of Burgess's former understudy Nick Phipps and Force No.9 Brett Sheehan satisfied the Wallabies coach enough to delay the call for reinforcement.

The door has been left open for the Lions tour, with all the same obstacles still in place, including the ARU's rules defining Test eligibility and Burgess's contract with Toulouse. There is more time to sort out those details in this case but also more time for Phipps and Sheehan to cement their spots. 

"Who knows what the coaches want to do, as players we're basically at their beckon call so it's out of my hands," Burgess said. "If the opportunity arose it'd be great but it also has to fit in with Toulouse, so there's a lot of people you have to try and consider and keep happy."

Deans's obvious high regard for Burgess and his willingness to consider making possible his return might send any man into a spiral of second-guesses.

Would Burgess be touring Europe today as Australia's starting halfback?

''You don't know if that's true or not,'' he said. ''I'm pretty happy with my decision … you can't look back on a what-if situation and let that affect my life now, so I'm definitely not going to do that.''

In truth, the move came as a relief. The decision to join Toulouse was made early last year and the pressure cooker build-up to the World Cup did nothing but affirm it. Not even the presence of the team in France this week has piqued green and gold nostalgia.

''It's such an intense environment, I needed a little repose from that,'' he said. ''I miss the guys, I iss the group, I miss all that aspect of the experience, but once you're a Wallaby you're always a Wallaby, so I think to have had that experience is really something special … I got the opportunity to play at the World Cup in New Zealand and I just felt like I had a full stomach and it was time to move on.''

It is unusual for footballers to leave near their peak. Burgess was not young for a halfback but he was by no means beginning to wind down either. He had always planned to play in France but there was ample time.

''I definitely didn't want to leave with people thinking, 'Oh, his best days were behind him,''' Burgess said. ''I prefer to leave and have people say, 'He left when he was able to give everything for the Wallabies.' That's exactly what I wanted.''

There was another layer to Burgess's career in Australia. He was not only a Wallaby but a Waratah, which brings its own quirks and challenges.

''The Waratahs is an interesting dynamic, I think, because there's so much tension at club level in NSW that if clubs don't see their club players in the Waratahs they're always bagging the Waratahs and it's tough,'' he said.

Toulouse have embraced their Australian import. He is coach Guy Noves's first-choice halfback and has played every game so far. Burgess, in turn, has embraced the city's passion for rugby in its northern hemisphere form.

''Sydney people want to be entertained and rugby's not always like that. We play less attractive rugby in Toulouse than what people would [see] in the Waratahs - much less - and people in Toulouse scream their lungs out for 80 minutes, loving it,'' he said.

''Whereas the Waratahs [crowds] would boo you at half-time if you didn't string eight phases together, and that's just the way it is. I think there are some people in Sydney that understand rugby and there are some people that don't.''

A year into a possible three in France, with language barriers and no one but each other, Burgess and his wife are about to take on another huge challenge with the expected birth of their first child. The time together in France has strengthened their relationship immeasurably, despite the normal longings for old friends and close family - emotions, no doubt, that will be heightened by a baby's arrival.

But there is much about Burgess, evidenced by his career decisions to this point, that tips him into sink or swim extremes. Despite the revolving door flow of foreign players to the Top 14, Toulouse remain one of the least internationalised.

''I didn't want to come to France and have a diluted experience. I'm not going to be here forever so I need to get the most out of it and to be in such a strong French environment,'' he said. ''Rugby is life or death in the south, there's promotion-relegation, there's the most hostile crowds you could ever hope to play in front of. It's just a wonderful experience.''

Super Rugby 2015

Round 1
Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
CRU 10 vs REB 20 Report Stats
BRU 47 vs RED 3 Stats
Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
LIO 8 vs HUR 22 Report Stats
BLU 18 vs CHF 23 Report Stats
Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
SHA 29 vs CHT 35 Report Stats
BUL 17 vs STO 29 Report Stats
WAR 13 vs FOR 25 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHF 19 vs BRU 17 Report Stats
REB 28 vs WAR 38 Report Stats
Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
BUL 13 vs HUR 17 Report Stats
HIG 20 vs CRU 26 Report Stats
RED 18 vs FOR 6 Report Stats
Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
STO 27 vs BLU 16 Report Stats
SHA 29 vs LIO 12 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
HIG 20 vs RED 13 Report Stats
FOR 13 vs HUR 42 Stats
Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHT 25 vs BLU 24 Report Stats
CHF 40 vs CRU 16 Stats
REB 15 vs BRU 20 Report Stats
Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 43 vs SHA 35 Report Stats
LIO 19 vs STO 22 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF 17 vs HIG 20 Report Stats
BRU 27 vs FOR 15 Report Stats
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
BLU 10 vs LIO 13 Report Stats
RED 5 vs WAR 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHT 20 vs BUL 39 Report Stats
STO 29 vs SHA 13 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR 30 vs BLU 23 Report Stats
FOR 17 vs REB 21 Report Stats
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU 34 vs LIO 6 Report Stats
HIG 26 vs WAR 19 Report Stats
RED vs BRU 29 Stats
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
STO 19 vs CHF 28 Report Stats
CHT 10 vs SHA 27 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
HIG 13 vs HUR 20 Report Stats
REB 16 vs LIO 20 Report Stats
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU 57 vs CHT 14 Report Stats
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL 25 vs FOR 24 Report Stats
SHA 12 vs CHF 11 Report Stats
WAR 28 vs BRU 13 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR 36 vs REB 12 Report Stats
RED 17 vs LIO 18 Report Stats
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF 37 vs CHT 27 Report Stats
HIG 39 vs STO 21 Report Stats
WAR 23 vs BLU 11 Report Stats
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
SHA 15 vs FOR 9 Report Stats
BUL 31 vs CRU 19 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
HUR 25 vs STO 20 Report Stats
REB 23 vs RED 15 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
CHF 23 vs BLU 16 Report Stats
BRU 20 vs CHT 3 Report Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
SHA 10 vs CRU 52 Report Stats
LIO 22 vs BUL 18 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BLU 16 vs BRU 14 Report Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU 20 vs HIG 25 Report Stats
WAR 18 vs STO 32 Report Stats
FOR 15 vs CHT 24 Report Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
LIO 23 vs SHA 21 Report Stats
BUL 43 vs RED 22 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU 9 vs CHF 26 Report Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
HUR 24 vs WAR 29 Report Stats
HIG 30 vs BLU 24 Report Stats
BRU 8 vs REB 13 Report Stats
FOR 6 vs STO 13 Report Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
SHA 10 vs BUL 17 Report Stats
CHT 17 vs RED 18 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CHF vs FOR 17:35WS
BRU vs HIG 19:55GIO Stadium
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs BLU 17:35AMI
WAR vs REB 19:55ANZ
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
LIO vs CHT 01:05Emirates Airlines Park
STO vs BUL 03:10DHL Newlands
RED vs HUR 16:05SS
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
HIG vs SHA 17:35FBS
BRU vs WAR 19:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs FOR 15:30EP
HUR vs CRU 17:35WS
REB vs CHF 19:40AAMI
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT vs STO 01:05FSS
BUL vs LIO 03:10Loftus Versfeld
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU vs RED 17:35AMI
REB vs BLU 19:40AAMI
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR vs SHA 17:35WS
FOR vs WAR 19:40nib Stadium
LIO vs HIG 23:00Emirates Airlines Park
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
STO vs BRU 01:05DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs BUL 17:35EP
RED vs REB 19:40SS
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR vs CHF 17:35WS
WAR vs SHA 19:40AS
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
LIO vs BRU 01:05Emirates Airlines Park
CHT vs HIG 03:10FSS
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
CHF vs BUL 17:35Rotorua International Stadium
RED vs SHA 19:40SS
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs HUR 17:35Emirates Airlines Park
WAR vs CRU 19:40ANZ
FOR vs HIG 21:45nib Stadium
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT vs LIO 01:05FSS
STO vs REB 03:10DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU vs HUR 17:35Trafalgar Park
BRU vs BUL 19:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
SHA vs REB 03:10Growthpoint Kings Park
HIG vs CHF 17:35Rugby Park
FOR vs RED 19:40nib Stadium
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
STO vs CHT 01:05DHL Newlands
LIO vs WAR 03:10Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
HUR vs HIG 17:35McLean Park
FOR vs BRU 21:00nib Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
REB vs BUL 15:30AAMI
BLU vs CRU 17:35EP
RED vs CHF 19:40SS
CHT vs WAR 23:00FSS
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
STO vs LIO 01:05DHL Newlands
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
BLU vs HIG 17:35EP
REB vs FOR 19:40AAMI
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
BRU vs CRU 15:30GIO Stadium
CHF vs HUR 17:35Yarrow Stadium
WAR vs RED 19:40AS
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
BUL vs CHT 01:05Loftus Versfeld
SHA vs STO 03:10Growthpoint Kings Park
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 09:00
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 09:00
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 09:00
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 09:00
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 09:00
View All Fixtures
Super Rugby 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Hurricanes 8 7 1 0 85 33
Bulls 9 6 3 0 48 28
Brumbies 9 5 4 0 83 26
Chiefs 9 7 2 0 70 32
Stormers 9 6 3 0 31 26
Waratahs 8 5 3 0 27 23
Highlanders 8 6 2 0 33 28
Lions 9 5 4 0 -48 21
View all
 
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