Rugby

Farrell tips Burgess for centre

2014-02-19 10:25
Sam Burgess (Getty)

London - Sam Burgess should play in the centres if he wants to have the smoothest possible transition from rugby league to rugby union, according to former dual-code international turned England backs coach Andy Farrell.

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England officials have insisted it is for English Premiership side Bath, the club Burgess will join from Australian league side South Sydney Rabbitohs on a transfer fee of nearly 500 000 (Aus$900 000, $815 000), to decide where their expensive new recruit will play.

But Farrell, who struggled to replicate his league form after moving to union in 2005, was in no doubt that starting in midfield would be the simplest introduction to the 15-man game for 25-year-old line-breaker Burgess.

"I don't suppose it's for me or (England head coach) Stuart (Lancaster), it's for his club really," said Farrell, who moved between the back row and midfield after joining Bath's Premiership rivals Saracens.

"What normally happens is a player gets used to the game and it becomes clear and obvious to himself where he thinks he's going to make the most impact.

"The modern-day coach and player has to work in tandem, otherwise what's the point unless you can get the best out of the player?

"It will become clear and obvious once Sam settles in," added Farrell, who won 25 England caps in an injury-hit union career, mostly in midfield.

Asked which position would represent the easiest introduction to union for Burgess, an unhesitating Farrell said: "There's absolutely no doubt it, it will be in the centres.

"And it would be more suited to his style of play. He's a great line runner and a great guy to get you over the gain-line.

"He has a great offloading game. His defence is strong. In rugby league how he's been coached will sit very comfortably in wider open spaces.

"He has been coached well and he thinks he can transfer that to the union game."

Burgess has said one of his reasons for changing sports was to try to win a place in hosts England's squad for the 2015 World Cup.

Farrell said that particular goal would be tough for Burgess to realise in the time available but said the fact the league star had signed a three-year contract with Bath meant he could yet enjoy international success in union as well as league.

"It will be difficult for him (to play in the 2015 World Cup) in the timeline," said Farrell.

"Stuart commented on Monday that it's not just about the here and now in terms of when he arrives in October, it's about him being serious about his future in rugby union.

"For him to commit to a three-year plan and to want to see the big things that happen in the game, like a tour to Australia or a (British and Irish) Lions tour, that's what excites him as well.

"Knowing the competitor that he is, he'll want to be all guns blazing and wanting to make the step up as quickly as he possibly can, but I suppose we'll judge that as we move on.

"He's got to earn the right to get in. Sam is fully aware of that. Everyone has to earn the right and the only way you do that is by proving yourself with your club form.

"We're trying to make this place as difficult as possible for competition for places.

"You'd hope that Sam will add to that."

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