Sam Burgess (Gallo)
London - Rugby League convert Sam Burgess has been given a starting role as an
England centre for the pivotal Rugby World Cup match against Wales at
Twickenham on Saturday after coach Stuart Lancaster named his side on
A chest injury to Burgess's Bath team-mate Jonathan
Joseph has seen the 26-year-old - who has played just 112 minutes of
Test rugby union - given the role of outside centre alongside Saracens
midfielder Brad Barritt, while Owen Farrell starts at flyhalf in place
of the demoted George Ford.
The decision to drop Ford to the bench
is arguably even more controversial than Burgess's inclusion given the
Bath playmaker has been England's first-choice No 10 for the best part
of a year.
In selecting Burgess alongside Barritt, Lancaster has
now opted for his 14th different midfield combination since taking
charge in 2012.
The trio of Farrell-Burgess-Barritt is certainly
the most physically powerful midfield three available to Lancaster, with
England expecting a bruising gainline contest against the Welsh.
another change to the England XV from the team that beat Fiji 35-11 at
Twickenham last week, No 8 Billy Vunipola - who like Burgess and
Farrell impressed off the bench against the Pacific islanders - starts
in place of Ben Morgan, out with a knee injury.
With Burgess and
Vunipola now starting, Alex Goode comes on to the bench to provide cover
at both fullback and flyhalf, with veteran James Haskell involved as a
Former England flyhalf Toby Ford warned
the decision to relegate Ford to the bench could leave the 22-year-old
"pretty devastated" as he has "been dropped when he hasn't actually
played that badly".
Burgess, the man of the match when the South
Sydney Rabbitohs won Australian rugby league's NRL Grand Final in
October last year, has been a union player for just 10 months and for
much of that time has been deployed as a back-row by Bath.
so far made just one start in three Test appearances and doubts remain
about how he will fare against a Wales backline set to include British
and Irish Lions centre Jamie Roberts.
Joseph's brilliant try may
have been the highlight of England's 21-16 win over Wales in the Six
Nations in Cardiff in February, but the victory was built on a superb
ball-carrying effort which, in part, explains the inclusion of both
Farrell and Burgess for this weekend's match.
appears to be to wear Wales down and then use their strength in depth
off the bench, including Ford, in the final quarter - a strategy that
worked well in their bonus-point win over Fiji.
"We have a lot of
respect for the Wales coaching team and their players," said Lancaster
in a Rugby Football Union statement ahead of a press
conference at England's training base later on Thursday.
"I am sure it will be some occasion on Saturday evening.
support at Twickenham last week was incredible with the crowd really
getting behind us and will need them again this week to lift the players
against a tough Wales team."
Wales, who beat Uruguay 54-9 in
their World Cup opener in a 'Pool of Death' also featuring Australia,
are set to name their side to play England later on Thursday.
Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Brad Barritt, 12 Sam Burgess, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen
Farrell, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 Tom Wood,
5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Geoff Parling, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Joe Marler
Substitutes: 16 Rob Webber, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 James Haskell, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 George Ford, 23 Alex Goode