Luther Burrell is ready to act as England’s midfield ‘Bodyline’ enforcer against Australia in Saturday’s first Test at Suncorp Stadium.
Just under a year after his controversial late omission from the World Cup squad, a slimmed-down Burrell has reclaimed the right to spearhead the onslaught promised by head coach Eddie Jones.
The imposing Huddersfield-born 28-year-old starts at inside centre as England seek to land a critical early blow in their bid for an historic series victory Down Under. “My interpretation of Bodyline is being physical, getting over the gainline and making big hits,” said Burrell.
“There’s lots of talk about Bodyline and my game is about being physical and getting over the gainline, whether that’s off set-piece or multiphase play.
“I want to get my hands on the ball and provide a good platform for the forwards to get on the front foot.
“As you saw against Wales in the Six Nations, when you get our forwards on the front foot they’re dangerous players.
“I have to know my role in the team and stick to what I’m good at, not doing anything out of character.
“I need to be physical and defend well, playing with aggression.
“I’ve never played against Australia. I’ve always been a fan of how they play, they’re very expansive and have great players across the field.
“I’m really excited to get back out there with this group of players. It’s something I don’t really want to let go of again. It’s a special moment.”
Burrell missed out on Jones’ first squad for the RBS 6 Nations after being deemed to be “grossly overweight” by the Australian.
Inspired to shed the 8kgs needed to revive his England career, he returned to Northampton where changes to his diet and extra sessions on the bike resulted in his recall for the rout of Wales at Twickenham two weeks ago.
The former Leeds Carnegie player said: “I got a bit of stick when Eddie said I came into camp ‘grossly overweight’, as you can imagine! Eddie thinks it was fat, but it was lean muscle!”
“Eddie wanted me to be quicker, sharper and fitter, so I really had to work on that. I needed to be more agile so that I’m not one-dimensional. I was struggling to do that with the extra 8kgs I was carrying.
“It was hard to lose that weight when you’re playing week-in, week-out, so I made small sacrifices like laying off the chocolate and pizza for a while.”
England completed the Grand Slam in Jones’ first season in charge, but the 56-year-old insists a three-Test series against the Wallabies offers a better gauge of Red Rose strength.
“Well we haven’t got an aura but what we have got is a growing confidence. I see the side day in, day out grow a little bit,” said Jones.
“The leadership of Dylan (Hartley) has been influential. The guys are stepping up to support him.
“There are baby steps. Saturday night is a big test for us. Australia are by far the best side we will have played and we will find out where we are at.
“We’ve got to do something different here. We can’t do what’s been done with previous England teams.
“We’ve got to have a different mindset and a different way of how we play the game against Australia, to change history. We have got that opportunity on Saturday night.”
Australia captain Stephen Moore has welcomed England’s promise of an all-out assault.
Moore said: “Test rugby is physical, probably more so than Super Rugby, we know the importance of that, we’ve prepared for that and we want to make sure that part of our game is solid.
“That is one part of the game, but it is an important one. Eddie’s always been a great fan of cricket, which is, I guess, why he used that analogy.
“We haven’t played together as a front row yet this year so this is our first opportunity to get out there. We’ve worked hard on that part of the game as we did last year.
“I think we did a lot of work on that part of our game last year to get to a point but didn’t get what we wanted to.”