Retired South Sydney Rabbitohs legend Sam Burgess has stepped down from his rugby league roles in the wake of a series of explosive allegations made against him.
The NRL has launched an investigation into Burgess after claims of serious misconduct made against the Rabbitohs assistant coach.
'BE HONEST’: Cameron Smith slammed over 'delusional' claims
Shocked by allegations published in The Australian on Friday, the NRL has instructed its integrity unit to speak to South Sydney officials.
The newspaper reported a series of explosive allegations against the former Rabbitohs captain, behaviour which was then alleged to have been covered up by the famous NRL club.
Burgess, an integral part of Souths NRL premiership success in 2014, denies the allegations.
His lawyer told The Australian "the allegations are false and constitute indefensible defamation against my client".
South Sydney released a statement on Friday afternoon, in response to the allegations against Burgess.
"The allegations in today’s The Australian newspaper are very concerning and the Club is treating them with the utmost seriousness," the statement read.
"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.
"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. The Club will continue to work closely with ASADA and the NRL which administer testing of the players.
"The Club will also continue to work with the playing group to support their wellbeing and educate them about drug use.
"The Rabbitohs welcome the NRL Integrity Unit’s investigation in relation to these allegations and will fully cooperate with the investigation.
"The Club is supportive of Sam Burgess’s decision to step down from his role at the Club while the NRL Integrity Unit investigation is underway.
Burgess has decided to stand down from his assistant coaching role at the Rabbitohs as well as his media duties for Fox Sports, while investigations into his alleged conduct are carried out.
As well as an NRL integrity unit probe, NSW Police have also launched their own investigation into the claims against Burgess.
The dramatic developments come just two days before Souths play a sudden-death finals match and hours before the NRL finals series kicks off in Sydney.
NRL investigating ‘very serious’ allegations
"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.
"We will also seek the advice of police and other relevant authorities throughout this process.
"This is new information for the NRL and it is important we now gather the facts.
"The allegations have not yet been tested and due process will be followed as we undertake a thorough investigation.
"There is no place in our game for violence, harassment or abuse against women."
Burgess played for the Rabbitohs from 2010 - 2014 and 2016 - 2019.
He was the Clive Churchill Medalist as man of the match in Souths’ 2014 grand final triumph.
In between his stints at South Sydney he played rugby for Bath and represented England at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
The 31-year-old was ‘medically retired’ at the end of the 2019 season due to persistent shoulder injuries and is currently serving as an assistant coach at Souths.
Burgess and ex-wife Phoebe recently separated after four years together.
They have daughter Poppy, 3, and son Billy, 1, together.
Shortly after their separation an Apprehended Violence Order was taken out against Burgess by NSW Police on behalf of Burgess' father-in-law Mitchell Hooke.
The AVO application hearing is due to come before Moss Vale Local Court on November 6.
Burgess has pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing.
with Yahoo Sport staff
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.