Thursday 9 February 2023 Dublin: 7°C
James Crombie/INPHO Burgess got his first taste of international rugby with the England Saxons last week.
# Growing pains
Is it too much too soon for Slammin' Sam? England's best ever centre thinks it might be
Jeremy Guscott thinks Burgess needs to focus on club rugby before transitioning to the international stage.

THE PERFORMANCES OF English league convert Sam Burgess have come under a lot of scrutiny recently and his display against the Ireland Wolfhounds, which was the first time a lot of Irish fans would have seen him, left many underwhelmed.

There is no doubt that Burgess has the physical gifts required to make it in union but he will make mistakes as he learns the game’s intricacies. A lot of people questioned Stuart Lancaster’s decision to bring Burgess in to train with the senior team after the A international but the English coach is obviously keen to give Slammin’ Sam as much exposure to top class rugby as possible in order for him to make the World Cup squad.

But is rushing Burgess into the national set-up ultimately going to hinder his evolution as a player? The42 spoke to Jeremy Guscott, who played centre on three Grand Slam-winning England teams and on two successful Lions tours, to get his thoughts on one of England’s most-hyped ever players.

RBS 6 Nations / YouTube

The man nicknamed ‘The Prince of Centres’ thinks that since Burgess came from a sport that follows an almost military like pattern at times – six tackles and then a kick/try/turnover – it has been hard for him to switch to a free-flowing game where each phase can be unpredictable.

“It is taking him some time to get used to the nuances of our game,” Guscott said.

“When he played league he was very direct and he was able to step off either foot. The thing about league is that he knew what was happening on every single play. Sometimes teams can have all six of their plays mapped out in advance. It is a lot more unstructured at times in union.”

Guscott stresses that people need to be patient with Burgess, saying that even ‘Sonny Bill Williams didn’t play excellently right away when he switched’. The problem with all of the hype around Burgess is that even if he is simply a good or even very good club player, he will have disappointed people.

The reason he came back to England when he did was obviously to feature in the once-in-a-lifetime home World Cup but he is even finding it difficult to get regular game time at Bath.

He is competing at both international and club level with Kyle Eastmond and Jonathan Joseph and Guscott thinks that until Burgess establishes himself as a regular in Mike Ford’s team people shouldn’t consider him internationally ready.

“It is too difficult to say at the moment whether he will be part of the [World Cup] squad,” Guscott said.

“If you were picking the first choice Bath team right now would he be in it? Probably not. Until he has nailed down his place in the Bath team 100% then he can’t really start thinking about international rugby.”

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