SAM BURGESS has revealed that Will Carling contacted him to explain his claim that the inexperience of England’s rugby league convert would be exposed during the World Cup.
Carling expressed his misgivings over Burgess on the eve of last Wednesday’s squad announcement, stating that the global showpiece has come too soon in his union career to the point that he feels “sorry for him”, adding that he strays out of position in defence.
The former England captain’s assessment was based on Burgess’s international debut in the 19-14 victory over France at Twickenham last month, a match that saw him execute two bone-jarring hits in an otherwise unspectacular evening.
It has been only 10 months since Dewsbury-born Burgess joined Bath, for whom he played his best rugby at blindside flanker and not the inside centre position assigned to him by England, and from the start the 26-year-old has been braced for harsh words.
“I’ve spoken to Will – he got in touch after he made his comments,” said Burgess. “Will’s just passionate about England. He has his opinion and is entitled to them. I just think you should never take comments personally.
“It doesn’t affect me as a player, I believe in myself and the people around me. I understand it’s all part of the process.
“I knew this kind of thing would come around. I was already well prepared for it. As a player, I feel ready. I have a lot of belief in the training I’ve done over the last 10 weeks.”
Burgess’s place in the World Cup squad came at the expense of Huddersfield’s Luther Burrell and the England management’s faith in a player who has produced so few union highlights has provoked a variety of reactions ranging from excitement to incomprehension.
A second cap will be won from the bench in tomorrow’s final warm-up match against Ireland at Twickenham and Burgess insists he is comfortable in his new surroundings.
One voice of unequivocal support is Hollywood actor and director Russell Crowe, the South Sydney Rabbitohs co-owner who convinced Burgess to join his rugby league club in 2009.
Crowe, an Australian, stated in February “never bet against Sam Burgess when faced with a challenge” in response to an unconvincing start to his friend’s Bath career.
“I’ve spoken to Russell quite a bit,” added Burgess. “He’s ridden the wave as much as me. He just cares for me, which is wonderful, and it’s great to have him in my life.”