England v Wales: Sam Burgess fires warning at Stuart Lancaster’s men
England v Wales: Sam Burgess says what the Red Rose have seen from him so far is what they’ll get at Twickenham
Sam Burgess says what England have seen from him so far is what they’ll get on Saturday after admitting that he’ll be sticking to a simple game plan in his first Rugby World Cup start.
Less than a year ago Burgess was leading the South Sydney Rabbitohs to glory – complete with a fractured cheekbone – in his last act in rugby league.
And his incredible cross-code transformation is now complete after being named in Stuart Lancaster’s starting XV to face Wales, as part of a two-man wrecking ball in the centres with Brad Barritt.
Burgess may not be known for his sleight of hand – indeed his greatest strength is in making his presence felt as a ferocious ball-carrier and an equally superb defender.
I believe in myself, I feel like I’ve got the respect of my team-mates
Those type of traits are what Warren Gatland’s Wales are renowned for and Lancaster has chosen to fight fire with fire, opting to shift Barritt to No.13 in the absence of Jonathan Joseph rather than call on a less physically imposing playmaker in Henry Slade.
And Burgess, who will have Owen Farrell on his inside after the Saracen replaced George Ford at fly-half, says there will be no surprises from him at Twickenham.
“Everyone has got to have that balance in the game, I’ve been working extremely hard over the last few months,” said Burgess, who spent the end of last season playing at flanker with Bath. “Stuart with me has been ‘keep it simple.’ Me and Brad have just got to get that balance right, we have trained well this week.
“I’ve got Owen as well who I’ve played the majority of my international rugby with. I feel very comfortable with it. It’s probably the first time people have seen it on the exterior but inside we’ve rolled round many different combinations throughout the last 14, 15 weeks.
“I’ve played 12, 13 a lot so I try and keep it as simple as possible. Brad is a very good professional, he knows his job as well as the other 22 guys that are going to be on the field on Saturday at some point.
“There’s been a lot of focus on this centre field but we’ve got to look at the bigger picture, it’s going to take a squad to win this game and this competition.
“I’ve been playing 12 for the last three months. Game time has helped me, I feel ready and I’m looking forward to Saturday.
“I believe in myself, I feel like I’ve got the respect of my team-mates and my staff here. They are the things that really count to me.”
Despite Burgess’ obvious pedigree in rugby league the fact remains that he has just 11 months’ worth of experience playing union – let alone to international standards.
Saturday will bring just his fourth England cap – and second as a starter – but Burgess believes that his inexperience may even play into his hands against Wales.
“I don’t believe what people say about it being a risk,” Burgess said. “I believe in Stuart and the team he has picked. My job is to go out and deliver the job he has given me.
“It’s a World Cup, it’s at Twickenham, it’s our home game, it’s a big occasion. Personally I don’t look back too much, I just draw on experience learned on the day. For me, I’ve got no experience against Wales.
“I’ve never played against them before. I’ve got none of the scars or bad experiences against them. For me, it’s the first chance to get to play against Wales. I’m looking forward to it.”
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