Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

Sam Burgess Batters into World Cup Squad

Sam Burgess battered his way into Stuart Lancasters 31 man squad earlier this week – and I for one am very sceptical about his selection… in fact I think it is a mistake.

I have long since had an issue with Sam Burgess ever since his very high profile move from Rugby League to Rugby Union. I can’t help but feel he has too much of the ‘Soccer’ Media about him. Everyone seems to want to write more and more column inches about him, whether he could do this, or could do that – when the truth is he hasn’t actually done anything in Rugby Union.

It feels like to me that the media have managed to put Burgess into this England side. I am sure he has worked hard and earnt his place in camp, but I just wish that all media would stop making him the first point of call on anything England related. He is a fairly good player. I don’t think he is better than Luther Burrell, and I feel that if Luther was up against another player of Sam Burgess’ quality; one that wasn’t the infamous Sam Burgess then, Burell would have been selected ahead of him, because the facts between the two of them speak for themselves.

Lancaster has selected a player that has played 90 per cent of his Club Union career in the Back Row. Not the Backs. He has selected a player that has one international cap, over a player that has scored 15 points in 12 appearances, as well as having 100 appearances for Northampton under his belt and having won the Aviva Premiership.

Though I have to admit I am glad that Sam Burgess has finally been picked as a Centre, the transfer of codes I feel always works best as a Back. The pace and dynamism needed on a Rugby League pitch would lend itself far better for the number 12 or 13 shirts rather than 6, 7 or 8.

In fact, the arguments for Sam Burgess to be in the squad are plentiful: Stuart Lancaster is a head coach who I have great faith in. I believe he knows what he is doing, and he undoubtedly knows the players far better than you or I. He is also a great believer in transferring skills from Rugby League to Rugby Union and if the selection of Burgess pays off in a couple of months time then this will be a great testament to Lancasters philosophy. Burgess is also undoubtedly built for top level competition.  He has that rare X-Factor, that winning mentality, he has won an NRL Championship as well as being a key leader for the South Sydney Rabittohs and he can clearly perform in tour-like-conditions as a result of his time spent in Australia.

But is an X-Factor enough? I can’t help but hark back to 2003 when the England team were calculated. They were solid. They knew everything, and executed everything. They were machines…they weren’t relying on the hope of a bit of talent at the right time.  They were relying on talent that had been developed into craft and confidence over an undefeated period of 18 months.  This I feel is very true of New Zealand four years ago and South Africa four years before that.  To win a World Cup it relies on consistent selection of players who have been playing for years and years together, not months and months.  I understand rugby has changed, the sport has moved on, but it is still a sport of percentages and statistics – if you win that battle you often win the match.

I am very much hoping this gamble from the England team heirachy pays off.  I like all fans of any team wish the best for said team, but I also have my own opinion about how success is best achieved.  I would be surprised if Sam Burgess gets to start, and I will be shouting from the hilltops every time he tries to make line break whenever he comes on – but there will be a lot of eyes on him, and Lancaster.  The second his number goes up… well, all England fans will hope both of them come away from the decision with credit in a month’s time.
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