England backs coach Andy Farrell insists Sam Burgess “ain’t got his L plates on anymore” as he urges the rugby league convert to force his way into the starting line-up.
Burgess has been included in the hosts’ 31-man World Cup squad just 10 months after launching his union career at Bath and despite playing the business end of last season as a flanker and not inside centre, the position he is filling for England.
Farrell insists the hard-tackling 26-year-old must not be satisfied with being considered one of the four best centres in the country and should target a place in the starting XV with Saturday’s visit of Ireland to Twickenham his first chance to win a second cap.
“Sam ain’t got his L Plates on anymore, that’s for sure. We don’t think he’s at a stage where he’s a million miles away from his peak or we wouldn’t have selected him,” Farrell said.
“He’s in a frame of mind that what he brings as a player, also in the other code, is that he can apply it in a Test match arena. He’s confident of doing that and we see that and feel that.
“Starting has to be everyone’s first thought and I’m sure he’s not thinking he’s here only to take part.
“Now that he’s been selected, he can start establishing himself. The leadership thing will come into its own on Monday.
“When you have a big group you don’t know whether you’re in or out, but now leaders will emerge in the squad over the next couple of weeks.”
Will Carling and Brian O’Driscoll are respected former Test centres who claim this World Cup has come too early for Burgess and Farrell insists his fellow dual code international is judged more critically than his teammates.
“As a rugby league player coming into union, you find yourself under extra scrutiny,” Farrell said.
“For example, Calum Clark is very good at the ruck, but like every player he may miss a ruck or not take an opportunity. It’s accepted, but Sam cannot afford that luxury.
“The minute he misses something or makes a misjudgement, it’s because he hasn’t been playing long enough or his technique is suspect. That’s a pressure.
“In reality, his all round game is good and he’s nailed most things quickly in the time we have been together.”