Wayne Bennett has hosed down fresh fears over Sam Burgess's chronic shoulder issues, saying he expects his star forward to play next NRL season.
Burgess last week pulled out of Great Britain's set of Test matches after aggravating a shoulder issue in South Sydney's NRL preliminary final defeat.
His withdrawal immediately sparked concerns about his long-term future with the Rabbitohs, where he has a contract for at least another four years.
Asked at the launch of the World Cup nines event whether he had an update on Burgess's injury, Bennett said: "No, not really. Only what we've said publicly."
Pressed on whether he expected Burgess to play next year, Bennett said: "Yep."
The seven-times premiership-winning coach was unwilling to shed any further light on the health of Burgess, except to say that the 30-year-old was in need of more surgery.
The Rabbitohs captain missed a total five games for the club this year due to his shoulder problems, including an infection scare that sent him back to hospital.
Bennett denied the extra time off would be beneficial for arguably Souths' best player.
"Well, he had the time off last year as well. We didn't play him last year in the English (sic) series (against New Zealand)," he said.
"He had a long time off this year. I don't think he needs any more rest, that's not the issue. The issue is the arm needs the rest, not Sam.
"He needs some surgery on it."
Asked if the club would need to manage Burgess's shoulder issues for the remainder of his career, Bennett threatened to walk away from the interview.
"I've said enough about Sam. I'm not here for Sam. I'm here for the English rugby league, so let's change the subject otherwise I'm happy to leave," he said.
Burgess's brother Tom said Sam was gutted to miss the Lions tour, which is where the veteran forward made a name for himself prior to joining the NRL.
The Lions face Tonga, New Zealand twice and Papua New Guinea over the next month.
"I remember it well because I was there watching Sam make his debut for Great Britain in 2007. That's where he made his name for himself, really," Tom said.
"He put a shot on Fuifui Moimoi and scored a try. He was playing with the likes of Jamie Peacock, Adrian Morley and those players who were some of our heroes.
"He was really looking forward to the Lions, obviously having fond memories of it.
"He didn't really want to miss out on this and it came as a tough call for him.
"It just shows his commitment to getting his body right."
Australian Associated Press