Burgess set to discover World Cup fate

Sam Burgess will find out if his decision to change codes so he can play in the rugby union World Cup has been a success when coach Stuart Lancaster names England’s final 31-man squad on Thursday.

The former South Sydney NRL premiership winner only moved to the 15-man code at the start of last season, joining English club side Bath.

Burgess, playing at centre, impressed on his union Test debut as England opened their World Cup warm-up program with a 19-14 win over France at Twickenham a fortnight ago.

He was not selected for last weekend’s 25-20 defeat by France in Paris as Lancaster opted to go with Luther Burrell and Jonathan Joseph in midfield instead.

Lancaster is going to have cut eight players from his current squad of 39 to meet the World Cup limit of 31.

Joseph and the experienced Brad Barritt are set to secure two of the centre berths, leaving Burgess to fight it out with the likes of Henry Slade – who also starred on debut against France at Twickenham – Burrell and Billy Twelvetrees for a place in Lancaster’s squad.

Burgess, 26, received encouraging words from Lancaster after the France game at Twickenham, with the Red Rose coach saying: “That particular decision around the centre combination will go down to the wire.

“Sam’s been impressive. I thought Henry did very well.

“For people like Slade it’s also about the next two weeks, the two months and the next two years as well,” added Lancaster of the 22-year-old rising star.

Former England scrum-half Matt Dawson said he expected Burgess to make the cut – although he wouldn’t be in his squad, with the 2003 World Cup-winner a fan of Slade’s greater all-round game.

“Sam’s inclusion will be based on more than what he did at Twickenham. His off-field influence is well received by the management,” Dawson said on Monday.

“Henry Slade played out of his skin and more importantly looked like he could do that week in, week out.

“I can understand why they’d take Sam Burgess, but he wouldn’t be in my 31, nor in Clive Woodward’s,” added Dawson in a reference to England’s World Cup-winning coach of 12 years ago.

Retired Ireland centre great Brian O’Driscoll is another former player who believes Burgess has left himself too little time to learn the intricacies of the 15-man code if he wants to play in the upcoming World Cup

“Burgess has proper defensive X Factor, of that there’s no doubt,” O’Driscoll said on his website, www.brianodriscoll.com.

“When his team has the ball though, I just don’t think he’s quite up to speed at international level just yet.”

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