Carling warns against picking inexperienced Burgess

Sam Burgess has left Bath and will return to Sydney

Former England captain Will Carling has warned against including Sam Burgess
in England’s squad for the Rugby World Cup due to a lack of experience in the

Burgess was one of the superstars of Rugby League but has only been playing
Rugby Union for 10 months and appears to be in a selection contest with the
far more experienced Luther Burrell.

Stuart Lancaster will name his World Cup squad and is expected to name four
centres and Jonathan Joseph and Brad Barritt are expected to name included in
the squad.

Carling says that he rates Burgess highly but even though the 26-year-old produced
a couple of strong tackles in his England union debut against France he did
not do enough to earn a place in a World Cup squad.

Less than a year ago Burgess was still a league player and had yet to make
his man-of-the-match performance for South Sydney Rabbitohs’ win in the Australian
National Rugby League grand final.

“I’m in awe of Sam as a rugby league player, but there is no one that
I have spoken to who I respect — ex-players, coaches — who thinks he’s ready,”
said Carling at an event for World Cup sponsors Heineken in London.

Carling said the haste in which Burgess had been fast-tracked into the England
squad had not done him any favours, especially as he had been deployed as a
back-row forward by Bath.

“I don’t understand what the rush is and it’s unfair on him. I feel sorry
for him. If he wants to make it in union, there’s plenty of time,” Carling

“He’s been playing union for 10 months and half of that was in a different
position to what England are playing him in.

“He’ll hit you hard if he can line you up and he’s a great guy, but I
don’t believe he’s one of the four best centres in England.

“He was functional against France and wasn’t a disaster, but there was
nothing that made me think ‘wow’.

“I thought Henry Slade had a far bigger impact than Burgess with his touches
and the way he read the game,” said Carling, England’s captain at the 1991
World Cup, when they lost in the final to Australia at Twickenham.

“If you watched Burgess carefully he was out of position a huge amount
in defence and England can’t afford that against sides who will focus on him,”
explained Carling.

“He hasn’t had time in the game. He doesn’t understand where the ball
is coming from and you can see that in the way his feet are when he lines up.

“The southern hemisphere boys will focus on him if he’s playing. If (Australia
centre) Matt Giteau plays against him… he’ll sucker him on for the big hit
and opponents will be coming from angles he doesn’t understand.”

Meanwhile Carling expressed sadness at the reported omission from England’s
World Cup squad of Sale fly-half Danny Cipriani, who came off the bench to inspire
something of a revival in an eventual 25-20 defeat by France in Paris on Saturday.

“Coaches have to make calls, but Cipriani wasn’t given a chance. He didn’t
get a start, he didn’t even get a half,” Carling said.

“In the 20 minutes he was given on Saturday, he was outstanding, but that
doesn’t seem to have mattered. Why was he even in the squad if they weren’t
going to give him a fair go? Any time he has had, he’s been exceptional.”

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