One of the mysteries of the 2015 Rugby World Cup was the inclusion of Sam Burgess in the England team. A player of remarkable talent in Rugby League, he was fast tracked at Bath and with England with one aim in mind…making the difference at the the 2015 RWC.
As Sam has acknowledged, although the ball might be the same shape, his baptism into Union was fierce, with some commentators highlighting his high tackle count, positioning and defense play as major weaknesses. He made it into the 2015 squad for one of the most highly anticipated world cups, with England not favourites, but still expected to do well on home soil. The pressure was on Burgess to deliver and on England, who had helped co-fund his big move from Rugby League.
We all know what happened next, Lancaster and the coaching team lost their jobs after England had a disastrous opening round, with Burgess shouldering some of the blame. We were knocked out of the cup so early it made national news as it was the first time a host nation didn’t make it to the second round. However the spine of the team, with players like Farrell, Itoje and Lawes are still in place, now performing for Eddie Jones and looking world beaters.
Now almost 3 years after the event, and partially driven by Andy Farrell’s appointment as the new Ireland coach after the 2019 RWC, Burgess is receiving tweets and comments about his lack of passion and impact at the tournament, which he’s responded to by saying…
“I seem to be getting a few tweets regarding the Rugby WC in 2015…. still, if people actually re-watched the games I participated in you will see I added to the team.
“What cost us an early exit was individual egos and selfish players not following our leader, which essentially cost the coach and other great men their jobs.”
“Tournaments are not won by the coaching staff or one player. It takes a commitment from the full group. I guarantee you this, I was committed but others had their own agendas.”
Burgess, who rejoined South Sydney Rabbitohs soon after the World Cup, says he has “fond memories and great friends” from his time in Rugby Union.
With this statement now in the public arena, his autobiography will certainly make gripping reading when he comes to writing it. Who could he be talking about?
Personally I admired Burgess as a League player and had great hopes that he’d be our Jonah Lomu, however he was fast tracked too quickly, failing to learn the unique positioning skills a Union player requires and never showed a deep understanding of the rules. Petty fouls, excessive high tackles and defensive issues followed him in every match, however England gambled and it backfired.
My Christmas book wish list for 2030 when Burgess finally retires and writes his book is already pinned on the notice board!