Ireland Wolfhounds 9 England Saxons 18: Jon Callard defends Sam Burgess

Saxons coach praises Bath Rugby's code-swapper after underwhelming introduction to international rugby union

Jon Callard defended Sam Burgess after his disappointing rugby union international debut for the England Saxons in Cork.

The Bath Rugby centre was culpable for a number of errors in the first half of the Saxons’ 18-9 win over a strong Ireland Wolfhounds team and drifted out of the second half.

What he did with the ball in hand wasn’t there to see, but he did a lot of good stuff without the ball.

Jon Callard

Any hopes that a big performance could have expedited his inclusion in the England senior squad for the Six Nations now appear to be over and it was clear that the 26-year-old needs to spend more time playing for Bath before he is considered again for international honours.

But Callard preferred to focus on the positives that Burgess brought to the A team during their week together rather than what he failed to do during a tough examination at Irish Independent Park.

“Sam has had a great week for us, but unfortunately didn’t have the ball on the front foot and probably tried to force a couple of things,” Callard said.

“He made a lovely little break and offload, which is what his strength is, but we just couldn’t get him into the game at set-piece.

“He was influential on the shape we had in attack. He pulled defenders out with his running, which created space out wide.

“What he did with the ball in hand wasn’t there to see, but he did a lot of good stuff without the ball.

“Sam has only had a session and a half in the England set up, but he created space for others and that’s what the game is about.”

Exeter Chiefs outside-half Henry Slade and Wasps wing Christian Wade scored the only tries of a tough contest against an experienced Wolfhounds team.

We scored two tries and nilled them on tries, which was very impressive. The players deserve all the credit.

Jon Callard

Slade also kicked eight points off the tee, but it wasn’t a polished performance by England’s A team with the lineout notably fragile, not helped by Wasps lock James Gaskell withdrawn early in the first half, and several attacking moves butchered.

Callard insisted that it was an impressive display from his side and they achieved their target of winning in Ireland for the second time in three years, avenging last year’s defeat to the Wolfhounds in Gloucester.

“Stuart Lancaster talked to the squad on Monday and told the players he expected them to win and expected them to be hurting that they’ve been left out of the senior squad,” he added.

“I’m very proud of our attacking rugby. The players gave everything against a good Irish side.

“We scored two tries and nilled them on tries, which was very impressive. The players deserve all the credit.

“We fell too many times on the scrum, but we showed great composure and discipline outside of that.”

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