KEVIN Sinfield believes Sam Burgess can succeed him as captain of the national side and possibly go on to become the world’s greatest forward of all time – as long as he does not turn to boxing.
The Leeds Rhinos captain was talking ahead of today’s World Cup semi-final when Burgess’s battle with New Zealand superstar Sonny Bill Williams has been highlighted as a potentially classic contest between arguably the finest forwards around.
South Sydney chief executive Shane Richardson, who helped sign the Dewsbury-born player from Bradford Bulls in 2010, recently espoused his view that the 24-year-old could evolve into the finest in history to pack down.
At 6ft 5ins, Burgess is indeed a towering presence but, allied to all his expected power, he possesses plenty of deft skills, too.
Given he can play prop, second-row or loose-forward – and prove equally as commanding in each – it is easy to see why the Yorkshireman has earned such a growing reputation.
That has only been enhanced further as he has proved himself in the famously tough Australian game, like greats before him such as Castleford’s Malcolm Reilly and Leeds-born Ellery Hanley.
Burgess has shone in his first World Cup, too, and when asked his opinion about where he ranked in terms of becoming the best forward in history, Sinfield said: “It’s tough. I am only 33, I don’t know what went before me.
“It’s a big call but I certainly would not argue with it.
“Sam is an athlete and has got everything. And he is also a great lad.
“He has a cracking personality and I am sure at some stage he will lead this group. So, I wouldn’t argue with that.”
In terms of comparing them to forwards he has faced, Sinfield added: “They are both right up there. I think what Sonny Bill has done in union, league and boxing (he is New Zealand’s undefeated heavyweight champion) I reckon Sam is the type of athlete and stature who could do something similar.
“They are both formidable athletes and both fantastic blokes, and they have a huge impact on how their teams play.
“It will be a great battle but I think there’s a number of others.
“Sonny Bill is not on his own, there’ll be another 16 who will be fantastic players and another boatload sat in the stands.
“That’s not going to be the only match-up, I think there is going to be several of them. Hopefully, as a unit we can all perform as well as we can and do our very best.”
On the subject of potential future captains, Sinfield – who succeeded Leeds colleague Jamie Peacock last autumn – feels the country is spoilt for choice.
“At some stage, I think Sam will lead England,” he said.
“He is an ideal candidate for it but I think there are a number of others as well.
“Sean (O’Loughlin) is a great leader at Wigan, Sam (Tomkins) shows the same qualities. James Graham has done it in the past. But, yes, Sam Burgess has a real good chance of doing it.”
In the meantime, however, Sinfield is intent on etching his own name further into folklore by seeing off the Kiwis to take a step closer to becoming the first home nations captain to lift the World Cup since Great Britain’s Clive Sullivan in 1972.