Crusaders boss left ‘disappointed’ after potential All Black decides to leave

David Skippers
Fergus Burke Crusaders v Rebels SRP 2023 - Alamy.jpg

Crusaders fly-half Fergus Burke.

Crusaders head coach Rob Penney revealed that Super Rugby’s perennial champions fought hard to retain the services of promising fly-half Fergus Burke before he opted to join Saracens.

Last week, Saracens announced that Burke will be tasked with replacing Owen Farrell at the North London-based outfit.

The former New Zealand U20 representative, who was seen as a potential All Black, signed a three-year contract with the defending Premiership champions and will arrive at the club in the summer.

Set to succeed Richie Mo’unga

And Penney couldn’t hide his disappointment at Burke‘s decision to leave, especially after the Crusaders invested plenty of time in developing the player to succeed All Blacks star Richie Mo’unga as their chief playmaker.

“For us, it’s really disappointing. But he’s made a well-informed decision. He’s got multiple opportunities for all sorts of reasons, and he’s taken that option and we wish him well. Who knows, he might come back,” Penney told Stuff.

That is highly unlikely, as Burke is eligible to play for England or Scotland through his mother and grandparents, respectively. The 24-year-old was unavailable to speak about his impending move to the media earlier this week as he is currently sidelined after hurting his calf at training.

Crusaders chief executive Colin Mansbridge said Burke looked at all his options before opting to join Saracens.

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“Obviously, in our situation, we absolutely would want him to stay, no doubt about it, and that was the message he got loud and clear from us,” he said.

“He’s obviously got three options in terms of representation. He could represent the All Blacks, England or Scotland, and it looks like he’s chosen the England-Scotland route. And it might be a bit easier for him maybe, I don’t know.”

Burke’s calf injury was sustained earlier in the week, shortly after he was expected to return to action from an Achilles injury, which kept him on the sidelines for all the Crusaders’ previous Super Rugby Pacific matches.

He is highly rated at the Crusaders and was set to take over as their first-choice fly-half after Mo’unga opted to further his career in Japan after last year’s World Cup in France.

Crusaders tried to keep Burke

Rumours that Saracens were interested in signing Burke were floating around for several months and Penney said they did try to convince the young playmaker to stay with the Christchurch-based side.

“Of course we put our best foot forward,” Penney said when asked if the Crusaders attempted to change his mind.

“But the reality is these young men are well informed. And he’s been around the tracks long enough here to know what he can potentially get out of being a New Zealand rugby player.”

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