London - Sam Burgess is a Stuart Lancaster kind of guy and whether he is a
centre or flanker, the fearless rugby union fledgling is starting to look
ever-more likely to claim a place in England's Rugby World Cup squad less than
a year after switching codes.
Burgess earned himself a place in Australian rugby league folklore when he
led South Sydney to the Premiership title last year despite playing most of the
grand final with a fractured eye socket and cheekbone sustained in the first
tackle of the match.
Burgess, typically, dismissed all the fuss but the injury and subsequent
surgery did delay his switch to union and meant his first game for Bath came in
November. He was fast-tracked into the England Saxons in January but struggled
on his debut.
Immediately written off by many as just the latest in a long line of
crossover flops, Burgess admitted he had much to learn and quietly went back to
trying to improve his game while doing his best for his team - the mantra of
his entire career.
A recent switch from centre to back row seems to have suited him and in the
last few weeks he has really started to shine as his tireless work ethic and
love of the tackle have ensured he is far more involved in the game.
On Wednesday he was rewarded by being one of seven uncapped players named in
Lancaster's 50-man World Cup training squad and has just a few weeks to do enough
to keep his place when it is cut to 31 in August.
"You look at the way Bath are using him in their games recently, he's
so powerful, so dynamic, he could play centre or back row," Lancaster
"I can't think of another player who's played club rugby at Premiership
level in two different positions - forwards and backs.
"But how he plays as a player won't change as a 12 or as a six. We've
seen the same running lines, the same big hits and the same ferocity in his
collisions in both positions."
Assistant coach Andy Farrell, another former rugby league man who played in
World Cups in both codes, recognises Farrell as something of a kindred spirit.
"If you watch him play he plays as a leader from the front as far as
physicality goes," said Farrell, who captained Great Britain at the age of
"Sam's performance in attack and defence at the breakdown compares with
the best over the last few weeks and it's going to be really interesting to see
how he develops."