England 19 France 14: Burgess keeping it simple in centre spot bid

England's Sam Burgess celebrates victory.
England's Sam Burgess celebrates victory.
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Sam Burgess was satisfied with his England debut as the frustration of playing an alien code continues to give way to enjoyment.

Burgess was propelled into contention for a place in Stuart Lancaster’s Rugby World Cup squad by a destructive defensive display in Saturday’s edgy 19-14 victory over France at Twickenham.

Apart from receiving a yellow card for tugging back Morgan Parra when the French scrum-half took a quick-tap penalty, the 26-year-old looked at ease in the Test arena only 10 months after switching codes from league.

A second cap beckons against Les Bleus in Paris on Saturday, most likely as a replacement, when he will have the chance to show his dismal shift for England Saxons against the Irish Wolfhounds in January was just part of the learning curve.

“I’m trying to do my job for the team and live up to any expectation that has been put on me. I was happy with how it went,” he said.

“I didn’t try to be a different type of player, or be how I’m described in the papers. I just cracked on and did my job as was needed. I kept it as simple as possible.

“I certainly felt more comfortable against France than I did for the Saxons. I didn’t try to do too much ball playing – just did what I needed to do.

“The decision making is coming now and that happens with time. I’m feeling so much more comfortable within the game.

“When you’re in one sport which you feel you know inside out and then come to another and start all over again, it’s frustrating. I’ve never lied about that or hidden it.

“But I’m sticking with it and am really enjoying the challenge. I’m enjoying it a lot more.”

Burgess appeared to spend more time in and around the ruck area than is usual for a centre, but his savage presence as a defender was evident even if he was less effective as a ball carrier.

Ten minutes in the sin bin were incurred after Parra craftily exploited his union naivety and an unrepentant Burgess admits he did not know the rules in this instance.

“I didn’t realise it was an automatic sin-binning. I will be richer for the experience. I’ll learn and I won’t do it again,” he said.

“Do you know all the rules? There’s a lot of rules, man.

“I sometimes think that the players who have played union all their lives don’t know all the rules. I’m not going to lose too much sleep over it.”

Burgess’s power game complimented the subtlety of centre partner and fellow debutant Henry Slade, whose clever hands helped create two of the three tries, all of which were scored by wings Anthony Watson and Jonny May.

Lancaster has stated it would be a “big step” to take both centres to the World Cup due to their inexperience, but Slade suspects that a place among the final 31 has moved a step closer.

“I felt really comfortable. At times it was a quick match, but the way we’ve been playing at Exeter has been pretty quick so I was prepared for it,” Slade said.

“I did what I like to do – get my hands on the ball and get involved.”

Lancaster names his side for next weekend’s trip to Paris tomorrow evening and is set to field a strong XV.

“We have got some decisions to make about the centre partnership for next week,” Lancaster said.

“It’s not rocket science to realise that Joe Marler, Dan Cole and all those other guys sat watching the game at Twickenham are likely to be starting.”