Lancaster praises Burgess’ strength

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Published: Monday 13th October 2014 by The News Editor

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England head coach Stuart Lancaster has settled on 80 per cent of his World Cup squad, but refuses to dismiss Sam Burgess’ prospects of inclusion.

Burgess’ union debut for Bath has been delayed until December at the earliest after he broke his cheekbone in the NRL Grand Final just over a week ago.

The powerful 25-year-old has told Lancaster he has targeted a spot in his 31-man squad for England 2015, the majority of which the head coach insists has already been inked in.

Kyle Eastmond, Luther Burrell, Billy Twelvetrees and Brad Barritt are contenders at inside centre, the position earmarked for the opening phase of Burgess’ transition from league.

Lancaster also identifies Owen Farrell as a possibility at 12, enabling the in-form George Ford to be accommodated at fly-half, and warns Burgess that the competition for places is fierce.

When asked if there is enough time for Burgess to force his way into his World Cup plans, Lancaster told Sky Sports News: “I guess we’ll see. It will be fascinating to see how he goes.

“The break is probably a good thing for Sam, it’ll give him a break that he probably needs.

“He can get across here and can learn the game in a quieter environment rather than being thrown straight into the spotlight.

“Having spoken to him, his mind-set obviously is to make the World Cup squad.

“We have some very good centres who I’m sure will have something to say about that and he will have to learn the game quickly, but he’s mentally strong.

“If he can learn the game he will bring an invaluable amount to the group.

“Obviously he has got to learn the game first, but he is a very, very good player and an impressive person.

“What stands out for me is his mental toughness and strength, the desire to dominate his opposite number.

“He’s played against some huge stars in rugby league, he’s taken the decision to go out to Australia at 18 years old because he wants to test himself and that’s a big thing to do.

“He’s done that, he’s achieved it and now he sees another challenge in front of him and you’ve got to admire someone who has that sense of mental strength.”

Lancaster names his elite player squad for the autumn Tests on Wednesday week with the visit of New Zealand to Twickenham on November 8 launching the series.

The position provoking most debates is inside centre with Eastmond’s dazzling start to the season at Bath identifying him as the Aviva Premiership’s form player.

Counting against Eastmond is his struggle against the All Blacks in the third Test in Hamilton in June with his defensive shortcomings resulting in his half-time substitution.

“Kyle is rather good and he has really developed this season,” Lancaster said. ” He had a great first Test against New Zealand and then things didn’t go for us as a backline in the third Test.

“I had a good chat with him afterwards and he had a steely determination in his mind. I could see him at that point saying ‘right, I’ll be back next season and I’ll be ready’.

“He said the same thing to Bath and he’s been outstanding for Bath this season, so he’s really putting a marker down for the November internationals.”

England were whitewashed 3-0 by New Zealand and have yet to win any silverware under Lancaster, who has presided to successive runners-up finishes in the RBS 6 Nations.

“We’d like to have won something and it is really frustrating for all of us that we haven’t achieved that,” Lancaster said.

“But sometimes going through the pain of losing channels your motivation.

“No one would choose losing as an option, but for us as a group, the pain of losing certainly drives us.”

Published: Monday 13th October 2014 by The News Editor

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