One year removed from his crowning moment in rugby league, code-hopping star Sam Burgess hopes to rise to a similar challenge to save England’s World Cup hopes – but he may have to do so from the bench.
English media is reporting the dual-international has been dropped for Saturday’s crucial Pool A match with the Wallabies, with Jonathan Joseph rushed back from a chest injury to line up at outside centre and Brad Barritt reverting to his favoured No.12 jersey.
The Telegraph newspaper also reported that Owen Farrell retained his spot at five-eighth – giving England an untried midfield combination for the clash which will decide their World Cup fate.
The team will be officially announced on Thursday.
Saturday’s crucial Pool A match-up between the traditional rivals will be almost a year to the day since Burgess won man-of-the-match honours in South Sydney’s drought-breaking NRL premiership win over Canterbury.
The 26-year-old played out the match with a fractured cheekbone and finished with the Clive Churchill medal to go with his premiership ring in front of 83,000 adoring fans.
The stakes will be just as high at Twickenham, with a loss condemning England to a humiliating group-stage exit at their own tournament.
And he believes his five seasons in Australia have steeled him for what to expect from the Wallabies.
“Australia are very competitive, that’s in their nature, plus they’re playing England,” Burgess said.
“They will definitely come out of the blocks hard and fast. I know (coach) Michael Cheika and I know him pretty well, he will be getting the guys fired up.
“I expect another great Test and challenge and it’s something to look forward to. There will not be many bigger occasions than this weekend.
“From us Australia can expect heart. If there’s a time to put your body and heart on the line it’s this weekend.
“A winning attitude is what we need on Saturday for 80 minutes.”
While Burgess has had some teething problems in his switch, it is a remarkable achievement for the former rugby league lock forward to have reached a World Cup – especially as he’d played just one Test match prior to the squad being announced.
On the other side of the field is Wallabies fullback Israel Folau, who took to the 15-man game like a duck to water.
Folau, who also made his name as an NRL star, made the switch to union in 2013 following an unsuccessful stint in the AFL – and has become a key figure in the sport in the three seasons which followed, winning two John Eales medals.
He was well contained on Australia’s northern hemisphere tour at the end of last year, but much is expected of the dynamic fullback at this World Cup.
“He’s an unbelievable athlete,” Burgess said.
“He can move off both feet, he’s strong, he’s able to break tackles, stand in tackles and make things happen, so he will certainly be a threat.
“He’s an all-round athlete and to play in three codes at professional level is quite unbelievable.
“He’s looking very comfortable in union and he’s enjoying his time.
“It will be tough to stop him on Saturday, but that’s the job we have to do.”