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By Qantas Wallabies Media Unit
Former Qantas Wallabies halfback Luke Burgess is returning to Australia.
He has signed a two-year deal with the Australian Rugby Union, which will take him through to the completion of the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Burgess has also signed for the Melbourne Rebels in Super Rugby.
The 29-year-old, who has been capped on 37 occasions since his debut in 2008, will arrive back in the country at the conclusion of the Top 14 competition in France.
Burgess has been based with leading French club Toulouse since the completion of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, sharing in the club’s Top 14 title at the end of the 2011-12 season.
Toulouse currently lies third in the Top 14 standings, with Burgess set to return to Australia as soon as his commitments with the club conclude.
The Top 14 final will be played on June 1st.
“I’m looking forward to getting home, seeing a few familiar faces and resuming my career in Australia,” Burgess says.
“Obviously representing my country again is a goal, but I’m also looking forward to linking up with the Rebels and playing my part in the on-going development of the game in Melbourne.”
Burgess has previous history with Victorian Rugby.
He played for the Rebels in the only season of the Australian Rugby Championship in 2007, helping the Melbourne club to reach the final of that tournament.
Selection for the NSW Waratahs followed a year later, resuming a Super Rugby career which had stalled since his debut with the Brumbies in 2005, with Burgess marooned behind the most capped Wallaby, George Gregan, during the closing stages of the ex-Test skipper’s career in Canberra.
The Waratahs made the Super Rugby final during his first season with the franchise in 2008, propelling Burgess into the Wallabies.
Perhaps fittingly, Burgess made his debut in Melbourne, as the Wallabies won their first match under the charge of Robbie Deans, accounting for Ireland 18-12.
His most recent appearance for the Wallabies came in the Bronze Final at the 2011 Rugby World Cup where Australia beat Wales 21-18.
Burgess departed as the country’s third most capped Test halfback behind Gregan and Nick Farr Jones (55), although his tally has subsequently been overtaken by Will Genia, who has now appeared for Australia on 41 occasions in Tests.
Like Farr Jones, Burgess didn’t play first XV Rugby at school, when he attended St Joseph’s College in Sydney after having grown up in Maitland, near Newcastle.
While Burgess acknowledges a return to Super and Test rugby has provided incentive to cut short his stint in France by a year; he says family considerations were the major factor.
Burgess and his wife Emily had their first child, a baby daughter Freya, in November.
The move to Melbourne will bring the family closer to Emily’s Tasmanian-based family.
“Playing and living in France has been a great experience – albeit I’m not sure that the locals will miss my French,” Burgess says.
“I’m grateful to everyone associated at Toulouse: from the president René Bouscatel, the coach Guy Noves through the club management, my team-mates, and even the supporters for being so understanding and supportive of my family situation and our decision to return home.
“Toulouse has been a massive part of our lives providing a lifestyle and a culture we’ve loved.
“The rugby has been different, especially in terms of the physicality on a weekly basis – the games can be a real grind, but it’s been a great learning curve that I’ve had.
“I’d like to think that I will be returning to Australia a better player.”