Burgess debut a "bonus" for Lancaster

Date published: November 27 2014

England coach Stuart Lancaster said it was a “bonus” that cross-code star Sam Burgess was set for an earlier than expected Bath debut.

England head coach Stuart Lancaster admitted it was a “bonus” that Bath’s cross-code star Sam Burgess was set for an earlier than expected debut.

Burgess was named on Bath’s bench for their Premiership clash with Harlequins on Friday.

The 25-year-old wasn’t expected to play until the end of December, but he has reportedly asked his Bath coaches to be integrated more quickly.

He hasn’t played since fracturing his cheekbone and eye socket during his final appearance for South Sydney in their 30-6 NRL Grand Final victory over Canterbury Bulldogs on October 5.

“It’s a bonus that he’s starting this early, but it’s a long way to go before we start picking our World Cup squad,” said Lancaster, whose side play Australia at Twickenham on Saturday.

“It will come down to how he plays; the earlier he learns how to play the game, the more he can learn about it,” he added.

“Having worked in the north at Leeds, we’ve had a lot of players come across from league. Some adapted very quickly and others took longer.

“I’m pleased, and I’ll be watching: it will be fascinating to see how he goes.”

Burgess’s return from Australia has been timed with a tilt at England’s RWC squad in mind.

Lancaster has previously made it clear he sees Burgess’s future, in terms of an England place in the centres, with midfield long a problem area for the Red Rose team.

However, Bath coach Mike Ford, the father of England fly-half George Ford, believes that Burgess will eventually develop into a back-row forward.

“If I am quite honest, I don’t know where I am best suited. Over time, I think that will become clear,” Burgess said recently.

“Nothing is set in stone, and there is no pressure on myself from Mike to do anything. I am just going to get in there, knuckle down, and do my best.”