Watson hails “world class” Burgess

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Published: Friday 23rd January 2015 by The News Editor

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England back Anthony Watson has hailed Sam Burgess’ “world-class attributes” as the former rugby league star prepares to enter the national set-up.

Burgess is poised to feature for England Saxons against the Irish Wolfhounds in Cork next Friday just nine weeks after making his union debut.

Burgess’ fast-tracking has raised eyebrows in some quarters, but Watson has no doubt the 26-year-old Yorkshireman will continue to relish every challenge he faces.

It is understood that Burgess is on course to start as part of the Saxons midfield in Cork, despite having so far made only seven first team appearances for Bath since his high-profile code switch from NRL champions South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Burgess spent his early weeks in Bath recovering from a facial injury suffered during the NRL grand final, but he then made a debut off the bench against Harlequins in late November before three starts followed, including a try-scoring display in the Aviva Premiership victory over Wasps earlier this month.

“You just see the world-class attributes that he’s got,” Burgess’ Bath team-mate Watson told Press Association Sport.

“He is an unbelievable player, and that is not even taking into account him as a leader.

“There a few transferables from league to union that he can give the boys tips about, and a great attribute he’s got is to be able to help everyone out and be a leader on the field.

“It’s awesome to be a part of, and to be able to play with him is great.

“His settling in at the club has been seamless, to be honest.

“When I first came back to Bath after the autumn Tests, he was already one of the boys. It felt like he had been here all year. He’s just a great guy.”

For his part, 20-year-old Watson looks set to be an important part of England head coach Stuart Lancaster’s plans in the RBS 6 Nations Championship this season.

The wing or full-back started England’s last three Tests against South Africa, Samoa and Australia during their recent autumn series, and he has been in blistering form for Bath during their push for domestic and European honours this term.

“To have been involved in the QBE internationals (autumn Tests) and to be followed up by being named in the Six Nations squad is awesome,” he added.

“First of all, I am going to try to play well for Bath this weekend, and then when I get into (England) camp to try to press my case and see where it takes me.

“When I joined the set-up for the autumn games in 2013, I was 19 and I was really nervous. I didn’t really know anyone, so it took me a while to get comfortable in the set-up.

“But during the autumn series just gone, I felt completely comfortable, and I think that kind of showed on the pitch and in the training.

“I just want to keep pushing now that I’ve had a taste for it.”

First on the agenda, though, is Bath’s crunch European Champions Cup clash against Recreation Ground visitors Glasgow on Sunday.

Bath’s stunning 35-18 demolition of four-time European champions Toulouse last weekend put them firmly in the mix for a quarter-final place, and victory over Glasgow should confirm they progress.

“We put in a great shift last weekend, but we have got to move quickly, and Glasgow is another massive test at home,” Watson said.

“We are not thinking about anything apart from winning the game. You can’t really think about the (qualifying) permutations – it is about doing things our way.

“We are all learning off each other every week, and I think that is starting to show on the pitch. From last season to this season it has been a pretty vast improvement all over the park.

“We have got a lot more to give. When you have a good run of games together, you get that understanding.

“Little things like closing out games, we have been better at doing that this season. I think it is about the ongoing progress of our side, and Glasgow is a good test.”

Published: Friday 23rd January 2015 by The News Editor

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