England head coach Stuart Lancaster says league convert Sam Burgess has made a “tremendous start” to life in rugby union – but insisted the Dewsbury-born star still needs time to adapt to the 15-man game.
The former Bradford Bulls player, who joined Bath from NRL side South Sydney, has since played at both centre and blindside flanker and, said Lancaster, remains a work in progress.
But, as the Six Nations nears in what is a World Cup year, the 26-year-old’s development is being monitored and he could yet be involved for England Saxons against the Irish Wolfhounds on January 30.
“We have two more Premiership games and two rounds of Europe to go before we name the (Six Nations) squads,” said Lancaster. “He has made a tremendous start in the sport. Everyone’s expectations are probably too high in terms of expecting someone to learn the game straight away.
“But from what I have seen – I watched him the other night when he played for the A team – I think he is doing really well. We need to give him time and make a decision nearer the time.
“We would certainly see him and trust Bath in terms of what they are doing with him, the way they are developing him. I have a meeting set up with (Bath coach) Mike Ford soon.
“Sam is learning the game, so we will see.”
Lancaster’s comments came as he visited host city Newcastle last night to officially unveil a World Cup 2015 sign on the Tyne Bridge.
He did so reflecting on a testing 2014, but one which has proved hugely informative as he builds towards the tournament. Victories over Samoa and Australia in the final two autumn internationals salved some of the disappointment of missing out on the Six Nations title and defeats by New Zealand and South Africa in November.
While the All Blacks, in Lancaster’s eyes, remain the team to beat, he insists as many as eight teams could realistically mount a challenge for glory.
“Every team is going to strive to win – if that’s not your ambition, then there’s something wrong,” he said.
“I think the real strength of this World Cup in 2015 is the vast number of teams that can potentially win it.
“Obviously New Zealand are No 1 in the world and rightly so, but if you look across the board there are six, seven or eight teams that have the potential to win.”