Rugby News

UPDATE 1-Rugby League-NRL to probe drug, violence claims against Burgess

(Adds details, statement from Burgess)

MELBOURNE, Oct 2 (Reuters) - Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) said on Friday it would investigate allegations of drug abuse and domestic violence involving former England international Sam Burgess and the South Sydney Rabbitohs team.

The Australian newspaper said in a report that South Sydney had covered up misconduct by former captain Burgess during his playing career at the club.

Burgess, who represented England in rugby league and rugby union at the 2015 World Cup, retired from the NRL last year but has worked in a coaching role at the Rabbitohs.

The NRL said it had instructed its integrity unit to conduct a “comprehensive investigation” into the allegations against the Rabbitohs and 31-year-old Burgess.

“These allegations are very serious and I’ve instructed the Integrity Unit to investigate the claims as a priority,” NRL Chief Executive Andrew Abdo said in a statement.

“We will also seek the advice of police and other relevant authorities throughout this process.”

Most of the allegations in The Australian’s report were made by Burgess’s estranged wife Phoebe and father-in-law.

Burgess’s lawyer Mark O’Brien rejected them all.

“It is apparent sources of the false allegations are those currently in dispute with my client over various issues,” O’Brien told The Australian.

Hours after the NRL said they would investigate, Burgess stepped down from his coaching role at the Rabbitohs and his TV job with Fox League, a rugby league channel.

“I have today stood down from all work commitments,” Burgess said in a statement posted on Fox League’s Twitter account.

South Sydney, which is co-owned by Hollywood actor Russell Crowe, did not provide immediate comment when contacted by Reuters.

In a statement, New South Wales state police said: “On Wednesday 30th September officers from the Hume Police District received a report outlining various allegations relating to the conduct of a 31-year-old man.

“Police have commenced inquiries, however as these inquiries are in their infancy there will be no further comment made at this time.”

Father-of-two Burgess became estranged from his wife Phoebe last year and was charged with intimidation by police after visiting the home of his father-in-law last October.

He pleaded not guilty to the charge in December.

Burgess was instrumental in the Rabbitohs winning the NRL’s 2014 championship, ending the club’s 43-year title drought.

Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Michael Perry