England’s Sam Burgess pointedly asked “Who?” when informed Wales’ Scott Williams would rather face him than Jonathan Joseph in Saturday’s World Cup showdown at Twickenham.
Ten months after his transfer from rugby league, Burgess will make his second Test start after Bath teammate Joseph was ruled out of the Pool A clash through a chest injury.
Williams stated a preference for facing Burgess over Joseph, who can be an elusive runner, and when it was put to the 26-year-old former South Sydney Rabbitohs forward, he mischievously asked for the name of the critic to be repeated.
“Who’s that?” Burgess said. “Oh yes. Okay, yes.”
It is fair to say Burgess, who is unlikely not to know his opposition on Saturday, is not concerned what others think of his speedy elevation from newcomer to a starting place in the biggest match of head coach Stuart Lancaster’s four-year stewardship.
“I don’t believe what people say. I believe in Stuart. I believe what he’s picked,” Burgess added.
“It’s their opinion. I believe in myself. I feel like I’ve got the respect of my team-mates and the staff here.
“That’s the opinions that really count to me. I’ll just wait and see on Saturday.
“My job as a player is to go out and deliver the job that he’s given me. That’s my main focus at the moment.
“The exterior talk and everything as a group we deal with well. As a group we move on and believe in ourselves.
“I’ll just let my performance do the talking on Saturday. I don’t want to make any bold predictions. But I’ll be ready on Saturday.”
Burgess suggested the game was among the biggest of his career, alongside the NRL Grand Final, his last match for the Rabbitohs which he completed with a fractured cheekbone.
He added: “This is up there. It’s a big game, really excited to get out there and be a part of it.
“I’ve got no experience against Wales. I’ve never played against them before.
“I’ve got none of the scars or bad experiences against them. For me this is a first chance to play against Wales, I’m looking forward to it.”
Burgess will be in direct opposition to British and Irish Lions centre Jamie Roberts, who has vast experience.
“Jamie’s a great player, very big and dominant. Looking forward to the battle,” the Yorkshireman added.
Burgess no longer feels like a rookie and was stumped when the question of the difference between league and union was posed.
“I’ve stopped thinking about that one, because I feel like I’m a rugby player,” he said.
“I’m more been focused about what my job is within this team now. I’m struggling for an answer on that one.
“I don’t often think about it. I get on with what my daily job is here.”