London - Sam Burgess was included in England's final 31-man squad for the
World Cup announced on Thursday just 10 months after changing codes from
Burgess, the man-of-the-match in South Sydney
Rabbitohs' win in the Australian National Rugby League Grand Final, was
included after playing just 70 minutes of Test rugby union - his debut
in a 19-14 win over France at Twickenham a fortnight ago seeing him
sin-binned for 10 minutes.
The 26-year-old edged out the more
experienced Luther Burrell for a place among England coach Stuart
Lancaster's centres even though Burgess spent much of last season
playing as a back-row forward for Bath.
Henry Slade, who also
impressed on his debut against France at Twickenham, was also included
in midfield alongside Burgess - although Jonathan Joseph and Brad
Barritt appear to be England's first-choice centres.
only recently returned from a broken leg, was included among the
back-row forwards with Harlequins veteran Nick Easter missing out while
Sale flyhalf Danny Cipriani, as was widely forecast, also failed to
make it to the final squad.
"It's really positive that we have such depth and options to choose from," said Lancaster.
wasn't easy and it is tough to leave anyone out but it's important to
stress that the players not in this group are still part of our wider
squad and could come in at any point."
Burgess's selection is likely to prove highly controversial, especially as Burrell was ever-present in the last two Six Nations.
to Lancaster's announcement, former England captain and centre Will
Carling said of Burgess: "I'm in awe of Sam as a rugby league player,
but there is no one that I have spoken to who I respect - ex-players,
coaches - who thinks he's ready.
"He's been playing union for 10
months and half of that was in a different position to what England are
playing him in...If you watched Burgess carefully he was out of position
a huge amount in defence and England can't afford that against sides
who will focus on him," explained Carling.
England begin the World Cup against Fiji at Twickenham on September 18,
having been drawn in a tough group also featuring Australia and Wales.
As a result, one of rugby union's major nations will fail to make the
last eight as only the top two teams from each pool qualify for the
England, beaten 25-20 defeat by France in Paris
last weekend, conclude their warm-up campaign against Ireland at
Twickenham on September 5.
England World Cup squad
Back three: Mike Brown (Harlequins), Alex Goode (Saracens), Jonny May (Gloucester), Jack Nowell (Exeter), Anthony Watson (Bath)
Centres: Brad Barritt (Saracens), Sam Burgess (Bath), Jonathan Joseph (Bath), Henry Slade (Exeter)
Flyhalves: Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford (Bath)
Scrumhalves: Danny Care (Harlequins), Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens), Ben Youngs (Leicester)
James Haskell (Wasps), Ben Morgan (Gloucester), Chris Robshaw
(Harlequins, capt), Billy Vunipola (Saracens) Tom Wood (Northampton)
Second-rows: George Kruis (Saracens), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton), Geoff Parling (Exeter)
Kieran Brookes (Northampton), Dan Cole (Leicester), Joe Marler
(Harlequins), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), David Wilson (Bath)
Hookers: Jamie George (Saracens), Rob Webber (Bath), Tom Youngs (Leicester)