Bath boss Mike Ford expects NRL convert Sam Burgess will not only make England’s World Cup squad, but also help the host nation reach the final at Twickenham on October 31.
Ford believes that Burgess will successfully make a quantum leap from the NRL to England World Cup squad member, despite only making his union debut 227 days ago.
And Ford has backed England to book a World Cup final appointment – “probably taking on the All Blacks” – by capitalising on home advantage that would see them play six of seven games at Twickenham if they reach the final.
Burgess and the rest of a 45-man England training squad have now decamped to Denver, Colorado, for further intense pre-tournament training, with the countdown continuing towards head coach Stuart Lancaster’s final World Cup squad announcement late next month.
England will play home and away warm-up games against France before Lancaster confirms his 31-player group for the tournament, and Ford expects ex-rugby league star Burgess to make the cut.
“Sam might be one of those decisions that Stuart has not quite made his mind up,” Bath head coach Ford told PA.
“Hopefully, Sam will get a crack in the warm-up games. He was outstanding in the Premiership final (in May). I expect him to get in, if he gets a shot in the warm-up games, which I expect him to do.
“They (England) are running him at centre, but there is the ability that if Sam was on the bench, for example, he could also play back-row if they need it.”
Burgess, who delivered a man-of-the-match display despite playing for 79 minutes with a fractured cheekbone during South Sydney’s NRL premiership win last October, helped Bath reach the Premiership final and European Champions Cup quarter-finals last season.
And Ford has been impressed with his adaptation to the 15-a-side code.
“It is pretty special what he has done. There was all the hype that came with it, all the scrutiny,” Ford said on Monday.
“He has played in the centre, then the back-row, and I think moving forward he is going to be a world-class player in the back-row for Bath, and I certainly see him in the future playing number six for England.”
England have been grouped in the tournament’s so-called pool of death alongside Wales and Australia – only two teams will secure quarter-final places – yet Ford is not deterred by that challenging prospect.
“They (England) are in a tough group, but I think that’s good,” he added.
“Playing hard games week in, week out, six or seven games on the run, makes you battle-hardened.
“Teams in easier groups might have easier wins, but it doesn’t necessarily prepare you for the quarter-finals or the semi-finals, so I think England having Wales and Australia in their group is a good thing.”