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Why Sam Burgess Can Make England's World Cup Squad

Danny CoyleFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2014

Why Sam Burgess Can Make England's World Cup Squad

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    Paul Thomas/Getty Images

    The rugby rumour mill is being kept turning by one story, and one story alone at present.

    Sam Burgess, the man around which the English rugby league side is built, is said to be on the verge of crossing codes for rugby union, according to BBC Sport.

    Burgess, who, at age 20, upped and left for Australia's National Rugby League—the toughest, richest competition in the sport—has admirers every which way you turn. The 25-year-old currently plays alongside his three brothers for the South Sydney Rabbitohs, but is said to be close to swapping the sun and sand of Sydney for the Roman spas and ramshackle Rec Bath Rugby Club call home.

    The West Country side was in the vanguard of bringing in league stars at the turn of the century, with Jason Robinson leaving Wigan for what became an illustrious career in union.

    With the backing of the mega-rich Bruce Craig and the salary cap set to climb in the Aviva Premiership, the temptation to switch to the 15-man code is strong.

    Throw in the carrot of playing in the 2015 World Cup on home soil having just played in the 13-man version hosted by England, and there will never be a more alluring time to consider making the change.

    The sums all make sense, which leaves only one question: Is Sam Burgess good enough to break into Stuart Lancaster’s squad in time for next year’s showpiece?

    The answer is yes, and here are four reasons why.

1. Lancaster Is an Admirer

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    The BBC reported that the England head coach spent time in Australia with Burgess’ club, the Rabbitohs, last August.

    In the same piece, it is said Lancaster would see the rugby league forward as a centre were he to make the change.

    Despite the emergence of Luther Burrell and the imminent return of Manu Tuilagi to fitness, the midfield has been a conundrum for the last four England coaches.

    Burgess has the size and strength (6'5", 256 lbs) required, but also brings the distribution skills necessary to help England’s back line boost their creativity.

    Watch the highlights above and imagine him alongside Tuilagi. Wow.

2. There Are Enough Games

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    Paul Thomas/Getty Images

    Talk that Burgess, should he make the switch now, won't have enough time to adapt and work his way into the squad is nonsense.

    If he plays the rest of this season for Bath and plays well, he will be in with a chance of going on England’s tour of New Zealand in the summer.

    England could be travelling without a number of their first-choice players depending on who makes the final of the Premiership, so Burgess’ chances are boosted by that.

    If he played in every England game between now and the World Cup, he would have more than 10 caps.

    To put that in perspective, Josh Lewsey hadn’t played an international for two years before winning only his seventh cap in the Six Nations in 2003.

    By the end of the same year, he was a World Cup winner.

3. Sonny Bill Did It

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    New Zealand dual-code international Sonny Bill Williams has already proved that if you’re good enough, you don’t need too much time to reach the very top.

    Williams had a brief spell at Toulon before he left the 13-man game in 2010 and made his All Blacks debut against England in the November of that year.

    Less than 12 months later he was picking up the Webb Ellis Trophy before crossing back into rugby league. He will be returning to the 15-man game again for a crack at winning another World Cup next year.

    Burgess—should he head for union before the NRL season starts next month—not only has more time than Williams gave himself, but is arguably better equipped to be a success. Former England centre Jeremy Guscott is already convince, as he told the BBC

    Burgess is a superstar in rugby league. He could have a bigger impact in the game of union than Williams did…He is certainly as big, if not bigger, than Sonny Bill Williams in Australia's NRL and if he does come to union it is without doubt an unbelievable signing, whichever club he may play for.

4. The Farrell Factor

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    David Rogers/Getty Images

    It would be no great surprise if England assistant coach Andy Farrell has been heavily involved in encouraging Burgess to try his luck in rugby union.

    Farrell was a late convert when he signed for Saracens in his early 30s when injuries were starting to take their toll. But he made the switch to play in exactly the same position that would suit Burgess at inside centre.

    It makes the former Wigan man the perfect mentor to guide the 25-year-old through the intricacies of union and get him ready in time for the World Cup.

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