Former England captain Sam Burgess has stepped down as South Sydney Rabbitohs assistant coach while police investigate allegations made against him.
The Australian newspaper reported on Friday that the National Rugby League (NRL) club had covered up alleged drug use and domestic violence by Burgess.
The 31-year-old’s lawyer denied the claims in a statement to the newspaper.
One of the sport’s biggest names, Burgess retired from playing last year.
“The allegations are false and constitute an indefensible defamation against my client,” said lawyer Mark O’Brien.
New South Wales police said they are investigating after “various allegations” were brought to them on Wednesday.
The Rabbitohs said in a statement that the allegations against Burgess are “very concerning” and they are treating them with “the utmost seriousness”.
“There is no place in our society for violence, harassment or abuse against women. If anyone is found guilty of allegations of this nature, the club will take the strongest possible action,” they added.
“The club takes issues of drug use very seriously and has well-established policies and procedures in place around the use of performance enhancing or illicit/recreational/prescription drugs.”
Burgess was forced to retire in October 2019 because of a chronic shoulder injury, but was retained by the Rabbitohs this year as an assistant coach.
He has also stepped down from his punditry role with NRL broadcasters Fox.
NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said the league is also conducting its own investigation.
“These allegations are very serious and I’ve instructed the integrity unit to investigate the claims as a priority,” said Abdo.
The Rabbitohs added that they will “fully cooperate” with the NRL integrity unit’s investigation and are “supportive” of Burgess’ decision to step down while it is ongoing.
Former Bradford Bulls player Burgess first joined the Rabbitohs in 2010, rising to become their star player and captain over 182 NRL appearances for the club.
He played 24 matches for England and two for Great Britain.
Burgess briefly switched codes to rugby union in 2014, joining Bath and playing for England at the 2015 World Cup, before returning to the Rabbitohs in November 2015.