Andy Farrell insists Sam Burgess is ready for his Test debut as the cross-code convert targets the performance against France at Twickenham that will secure him a place in England’s World Cup squad.
Burgess wins his first cap in union just 10 months after leaving league and has been selected at inside centre alongside Henry Slade despite producing his best rugby for Bath last season as a blindside flanker.
With head coach Stuart Lancaster indicating at the start of the week that Burgess and Slade are highly unlikely to both feature among the final 31 destined for England 2015, today’s warm-up fixture has become a shoot-out for selection between the team-mates.
Farrell, who was also an international in both codes of the sport, has played down the significance of the match in the first of two Tests against Six Nations rivals France, but is expecting Burgess to shine.
“What makes me believe Sam is ready is that I have seen the fact he has got himself to the situation he is at now,” backs coach Farrell said.
“He’s in a squad of 38 players and that means he has done the work required to get himself a chance to play in the first warm-up game.
“You’d like to think there’s a big game in him. We hope he’s part of a good team performance and that’s the main focus of all the lads.
“Everyone would like to put this out as a trial match and a do-or-die situation for some players, but we don’t see it like that.
“They’ve been together for seven or eight weeks now and they’re concerned about performing and doing their job for the team and that’s what I expect of Sam as well.”
England visit Paris next Saturday in what will be their last opportunity to examine fringe contenders before naming their 31-strong World Cup squad, which must be submitted by August 31.
Lancaster is likely to have inked in the names of as many as 28 players, leaving the identity of the last remaining prop, hooker and centre to be decided by the two clashes with France.
“Everyone wants to have an opinion on all sorts of permutations but we’ll keep our powder dry and just let it unfold in front of us,” Farrell said.
“We have a couple of weeks until we have to select the 31-man squad and there is a lot of water that has to go under the bridge before then.”
England open the World Cup against Fiji on September 18 and Farrell insists the excitement is already beginning to build for a match expected to draw a crowd of 60,000.
“The boys want to put in a good performance because they get the excitement of the competition almost starting now,” Farrell said. “We have been away behind closed doors for quite some time and the hype is going to start building.
“It’s our first showing at home, at Twickenham, where the first game is going to be against Fiji and we want to get the crowd behind us straight away.”
Farrell said England are unconcerned by France’s decision to announce their team on the eve of the match in breach of World Rugby regulations that state their line-up should have been named 72 hours before kick-off.
World Rugby has stated it will only seek to sanction France if England lodge an official complaint.