Burgess expects to play at centre

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Published: Saturday 29th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Sam Burgess admits his short-term future in rugby union lies in the centre – even if Bath coach Mike Ford sees him as a “barnstorming back rower”.

League convert Burgess made a 17-minute cameo from the bench as Bath went top of the Aviva Premiership with a 25-6 victory over Harlequins at the Recreation Ground on Friday night.

Burgess’ arrival in the centre would have delighted England coach Stuart Lancaster who believes the 25-year-old can make a real impact in that position at next year’s World Cup, and the Dewsbury-born powerhouse admits that is where his formative education in union will take place.

“I’ve been mixing it up in training but I think I’ll stay at centre for now, certainly over the next few games,” Burgess said after tasting his first action since his final game for the South Sydney Rabbitohs on October 5 when he played almost the entire NRL Grand Final with a fractured cheekbone.

“But we’ve got a lot of time. It’s certainly not an overnight transition and the worst thing we could do is rush it.

“It was always going to be hard but I’ve really enjoyed it and everyone’s been open to teaching me things.

“The game’s tough to learn and I was sat on the bench a little bit nervous.

“I haven’t felt that for a while but I enjoyed the feeling and the adrenalin and once you get on the field you just enjoy the game.”

Burgess admits he has thought about next year’s Rugby World Cup in England but insists he has much to grasp about union before breaking into the national team set-up.

“I think everyone’s got an eye on the World Cup,” Burgess said.

“I’m not going to be naive and dismiss it, but it would be stupid to waste energy looking at that.

“I’m using all my energy to focusing on training here with the guys, knuckling down and working hard with my team-mates at Bath.

“It’s great to be part of that. We train intensely and it’s been great to slot into that environment, but I will learn most through time on the field with the guys.”

Ford said he was delighted with Burgess’ introduction to union a month ahead of schedule, something which Lancaster described as “a bonus” with the World Cup in mind.

But he suggested that playing Burgess at inside-centre could be short-lived with a place in the Bath back row very much an option.

“The two carries he had were very, very good,” Ford said. “He needs to get out there and play and when the pressure’s on that will accelerate his learning.

“There’s a plan there and Sam’s first few games are going to come at 12, but when it’s dry we’re going to have a look at him in the back row as well.

“Personally, I think that will suit Sam personally more. It’s a gut feeling of mine as he’s a guy who carries and tackles a lot and I don’t want to stick him out in the centre to do nothing.

“That’s not his skill set. Can we get him over the gain line with six, seven or eight on his back?

“Of course we can and the next month or so we’ll know where he is.

“My vision is for Sam to be a barnstorming back row and we’ll see how it unfolds, it’ll be a good journey.”

Published: Saturday 29th November 2014 by The News Editor

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