Sam Burgess (Gallo)
London - Rugby League convert Sam Burgess
will be thrown in at the deep end when he starts against Wales in the first big
Rugby World Cup 'Pool of Death' clash on Saturday.
Critics say England coach Stuart Lancaster
is rushing Burgess. Lancaster has insisted he is not risking the World Cup
A chest injury to Bath team-mate Jonathan
Joseph during England's tournament-opening 35-11 win over Fiji led Lancaster to
rejig his backline for their second Pool A game which has earned its notoriety
because of the presence of Australia.
Now, having made much of the need for
experience in the side when he became England coach in 2012, Lancaster will
give Burgess just his second Test start in the 15-man game, at inside centre,
alongside the tough-tackling Brad Barritt.
Lancaster has also dropped George Ford, his
first-choice fly-half for the past year, and brought in Owen Farrell, who like
Burgess and recalled No 8 Billy Vunipola impressed off the bench against Fiji.
To England's critics, this looks like a
'horses for courses' selection designed to counter the threat of a powerful
Welsh midfield featuring British and Irish Lions centre Jamie Roberts.
Lancaster has reverted to the type expected of Red Rose coaches by opting for
power over guile and not even finding space in his match day 23 for Exeter
playmaker Henry Slade, they say.
But Lancaster insisted his line-up was not
a sign that England, captained by flank Chris Robshaw, would deploy a
conservative game plan against Wales, a side they beat 21-16 when the teams met
in the Six Nations in Cardiff in February.
"There's got to be some subtlety in
there because Wales are too good defensively to break down that way,"
Lancaster said after unveiling his side on Thursday.
Burgess has played just 112 minutes of
international rugby union, including one start, in the 10 months since he bowed
out of rugby league. Former England captain Will Carling is among those who
believe he has been rushed needlessly into the Test set-up.
But Wales coach Warren Gatland is not so
sure, although he suggested England would miss Joseph, who scored a fine try
when the visitors came from behind to beat Wales at the Millennium Stadium this
"He (Burgess) has got inexperience at
rugby (union), but not at big occasions."
The New Zealander added: "Joseph has
caused us a lot of problems at centre...I am not sure that Burgess and Barritt
have the same footwork."
Injury-hit Wales, who lost ace goal kicker
Leigh Halfpenny and scrum-half Rhys Webb before the tournament started,
received an official warning Thursday for training with players from outside
their 31-man squad. There are concerns over the fitness of props Samson Lee and
England and Wales enjoyed bonus-point wins
over Fiji and Uruguay respectively last week but saw their set-pieces stutter
ahead of their clash.
England's forward platform was key to their
victory in Cardiff this year, with Gatland saying: "We got dragged into a
game that we didn't want to do.
"They wanted to keep the ball in the
scrums and they wanted to drive every line-out.
"We have got to be aware that that is
potentially a tactic they might bring on Saturday," added Gatland, who
will hope for an improved display by a Welsh pack featuring skipper Sam
Warburton and lock Alun Wyn Jones.
The has been immense hype surrounding
Saturday's match ever since the draw was made in 2012.
Lancaster, trying to put the fixture into
context, said: "It is important to state that it is not the end of the
World Cup, this game.
"There's still a lot more to be
decided, but all roads do lead to Saturday."