Burgess: Monkey off my back

2014-11-29 08:54
Sam Burgess (Getty)

London - Rugby league star Sam Burgess made his highly-anticipated union debut for Bath in a comprehensive 25-6 victory over Harlequins in the English Premiership on Friday.

Burgess had not played rugby since fracturing his cheekbone and eye socket during his final appearance for South Sydney in their 30-6 NRL Grand Final victory over Canterbury Bulldogs in October.

But he was named on the bench for Bath, for whom he was signed a three-year deal worth an estimated 270,000 with a tilt at England's World Cup squad in mind.

And the player capped 28 times as a forward for England in rugby league came on in the 63rd minute as a centre alongside fellow league convert Kyle Eastmond.

"The superhuman from rugby league given a blast!" was how BT Sport commentator Nick Mullins heralded Burgess' arrival.

Immediately from an attacking scrum, Irish scrum-half Peter Stringer passed straight to Burgess on a crash ball, three men required to take him down as he laid the ball back perfectly.

The 25-year-old rugby league convert was not expected to make his Bath bow until the end of December, but he had asked his coaches to be integrated into the squad more quickly.

Burgess has apparently spent his time at Bath "asking 1,000 questions", according to coach Mike Ford, and he displayed his technical ability with a sharp clear-out of England scrum-half Danny Care at a ruck as the game ran out of steam.

"To be honest, I was a little bit nervous on the bench, but I really enjoyed it," Burgess told BT Sport.

"The monkey's off the back, I guess, and now I can just focus and try and knuckle down and improve my game with the team.

"I've had quite a lot of practice over the last few weeks, so it was nice to get out on the pitch.

"I went out and tried to enjoy it and I certainly did. I've got a lot to learn still but I'm really enjoying it."

Ford praised Eastmond for guiding Burgess through his debut.

"It was important Kyle stayed on when Sam came on," Ford said. "Through training all week, Sam's been asking 1,000 questions and Kyle's been answering them.

"It's basically 'follow me and I'll give you the ball when I can', so it's important that Sam felt at home with someone on the same wavelength."

Bath took control of the game early on through two tries from Matt Banahan and the influential Eastmond, Argentina international full-back Horacio Agulla providing the crucial offloads for each try.

Ex-All Black fly-half Nick Evans responded with a penalty before Bath counterpart Ollie Devoto knocked one over for the home side to make it 13-3 at half-time.

Evans scored an early second-half penalty as Devoto missed one to add to his two previous skewed conversions.

But Bath were still asserting their set-piece dominance, and Quins, badly missing prop Joe Marler and flanker Chris Robshaw on England duty, paid for a further scrum infringement when tighthead prop Kyle Sinckler was yellow carded by referee Wayne Barnes.

Barnes then sent visiting lock George Robson to the bin for hauling down a maul just metres from the line, to compound woes as Burgess began warming up in pouring rain at Bath's Recreation Ground.

Harlequins' replacement tighthead Will Collier also received a yellow card with the London club's scrum in disarray and throwing up a wealth of possession for the west England club.

From a driving line-out Bath hooker Ross Batty broke off for a third try, Devoto again missing the conversion.

No 8 Leroy Houston crossed for the fourth try from another maul to hand the home side a bonus point, Devoto kicking the extras as Burgess enjoyed a successful start to the 15-a-side game to set tongues wagging ahead of next year's World Cup.

Read more on:    harlequins  |  bath  |  aviva premiership  |  rugby

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