Bath coach Mike Ford believes Sam Burgess is ready for Test match rugby as a flanker despite just four English Premiership appearances in the back row.
World Cup hopeful Burgess should be named in England’s 45-man wider training squad on Wednesday, before facing up to Leicester Tigers for Bath in Saturday’s Premiership semi-final.
The 26-year-old only switched from centre to back-row last month – and from league to union in December – but Ford has backed the former South Sydney NRL forward to feature in the England pack.
“Do I think he could play international football at six (blindside flanker) now? Yes I do,” said Ford.
“You have a look at the work-rate and what he does with his carries, tackles and hitting rucks, it’s very good.”
England head coach Stuart Lancaster has always viewed Burgess as a centre so far, with Manu Tuilagi’s exile for assaulting police officers perhaps opening another avenue for the former rugby league star.
Former England defence coach Ford expects Lancaster to hand Burgess his Test debut during the summer’s World Cup warm-up Tests, and again pushed his case as a flanker not an inside centre.
Burgess claimed a try as Bath completed the regular Premiership season with a high-octane 50-30 west country derby victory over Gloucester at The Recreation Ground last weekend.
Ford believes another workaholic performance was further indication that the back-row is the place for “the real Sam Burgess”.
“He’s still learning; his work-rate again at the weekend was phenomenal,” said Ford.
“But his try at the weekend, close your eyes and that’s the real Sam Burgess.
“The way he hit the line, the way he fended and then he stepped the full-back to go over the line, planting the ball down one-handed.
“That’s what I envisaged what I first signed him, those sort of lines and that kind of running.
“You can say what he can’t do and what he struggles with, the line-outs the mauls and maybe the technicalities.
“But you’ve also got to look at what he can do, and working with him every day Stuart Lancaster and the coaches are going to see a leader, a true leader, who is selfless, the first word out of his mouth is always team, who has the ability during the pressure games to say ‘give me the ball and I’ll do what I have to do for you’ and keep that control and perspective.”