'It's been a bit of a s***show' - Burrell puts tough times behind him as he relishes Saints return

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'It's been a bit of a s***show, hasn't it?” says Luther Burrell as he discusses how life has been for him since leaving Saints.

But the likeable centre is smiling again now as he is getting set to run out at the Gardens once more, this time for the Barbarians.

Burrell left Saints to join rugby league outfit Warrington Wolves back in 2019.

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He returned to rugby union with Newcastle Falcons a year later, playing against Saints on a couple of occasions.

Luther Burrell will be playing for the Barbarians against SaintsLuther Burrell will be playing for the Barbarians against Saints
Luther Burrell will be playing for the Barbarians against Saints

And he has since lifted the lid on racism in the sport, with an RFU investigation into those claims having recently been concluded.

Burrell has been back at Saints to give talks and watch games, with his love for the club still clearly intact.

And now he will get the chance to grace the Gardens turf for a final time before heading off for a new playing adventure in Japan.

“I honestly can't wait to play this weekend!” Burrell said.

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“I was in Northampton to watch the game against Bristol (on October 29) and it was just amazing going back.

“Coming down the motorway I was very excited and it was like I could do that drive with my eyes closed because it is like home for me.

“I can't lie, when I was watching that game I was watching with a bit of envy because I wanted to be out there myself.

“I'm going to get that opportunity with the BaaBaas and what an occasion that's going to be.”

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Burrell openly admits he has always found it tough to play against Saints, having enjoyed such highs during his seven years at the club.

“You have to be so professional being an athlete, but I can't lie, it was so difficult for me when I was at Newcastle and I was playing against them because I had such highs at the club and the club means so much to me,” said the 34-year-old.

“I left for family reasons, personal reasons etc so I didn't really want to leave but I did go.

“I came back and played back and some old team-mates, who had been such a big part of my life, and it felt like I was stabbing them in the back.

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“It was difficult, but naturally as an athlete you have to try to get your head around it.

“This experience and opportunity is going to be quite different, representing the Barbarians with so many great players and what an occasion it's going to be.

“My mate Woody (Tom Wood) is going to be joining me out there so I'm super excited.”

Burrell and Wood were part of the Saints team that claimed double glory during the 2013/14 season, grabbing the Premiership and European Challenge Cup trophies.

And Burrell is relishing their Barbarians reunion.

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“I've seen a lot of him on social media, making dining tables etc, but I hadn't seen him in person,” Burrell said.

“Naturally we crossed paths when Newcastle and Northampton played over the past couple of years but I'd not seen him socially.

“I was actually talking to Samu Manoa recently and he said to me that we need to speak to Shieldsy (Saints' head of recruitment and retention, Paul Shields) because we need a WhatsApp group for all the old players.

“Samu (Manoa) said we need one for that season when we won the championship, won in Europe and we need to get an anniversary sorted to get all the boys back together.

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“I speak to Dyls (Dylan Hartley), who is obviously over in Dubai, I speak to Courtney (Lawes) now and again, Harry (Mallinder), (Alex) Waller.

“After the Bristol game I went for a few quiet beers with a few of the lads.”

Burrell's successful spell at Saints has only been amplified for him by what has happened since.

When asked how he had been since exiting Northampton, he laughed and said: “Well, do I need to keep this PC?

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“It's been a bit of a s***show hasn't it to be honest, to put it politely.

“I went to rugby league and ultimately ended up leaving that contract.

“I went to Newcastle and had a difficult period up that, I had stuff going on on and off the field, which has really taken its toll.

“Like anything in Luther Burrell's life, it's never straightforward.

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“Things have turned around naturally, I've had my back against the wall a couple of times but I always come out swinging.

“The cream will rise to the top.

“It's been difficult with highs and lows since I left but I've always kept a close eye on Northampton and what's going on there.

“I'm going to Japan in December to go and play out there. I'm in the final negotiations stage with that, just waiting on visas etc so I'm really looking forward to that opportunity.

“It will be great to get some game time with the Barbarians before I go out there.

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“I'll do six months in Japan, come back, do some stuff at the World Cup and then go out for a second season next November.

“Then who knows? My mind might say 'it's your time to call it a day', but I'm really excited to get out to Japan and that's the beauty of this sport because it gives you opportunities to jump into different cultures and experience things that could potentially be lifechanging.

“You never know what could be behind the doors so I'd be silly to turn it down.”