LONDON: Rugby League convert Sam Burgess could see his bid to gain a place in England’s World Cup squad given a boost by the injury crisis engulfing Stuart Lancaster’s back division just weeks before the Six Nations starts.
Now at English Premiership side Bath, where he has been played at center, Burgess is set to play for the reserve England Saxons against the Irish Wolfhounds in Cork on Friday.
Burgess, who returned home from Australia with the aim of being selected for the hosts’ World Cup squad, has made only a handful of first-team appearances for Bath since his switch from National Rugby League champions South Sydney Rabbitohs.
However, the senior England midfield is struggling with several injury problems.
Saracens centre Brad Barritt has a knee injury while Northampton counterpart Luther Burrell suffered concussion in the Saints’ 32-8 European Champions Cup thrashing by Racing Metro last weekend.
Meanwhile, Burgess’s Bath colleague Kyle Eastmond (shoulder) and fly-half/centre Owen Farrell (knee) are also battling to be fit for England’s Six Nations opener against Wales in Cardiff on February 6.
Jonathan Joseph and Billy Twelve trees are the only fit centers currently in the England senior squad and while Lancaster has said it would be a “big, big ask” for the 26 year old Burgess to feature in the Six Nations, a few more injuries could change the picture significantly.
“Sam is certainly more than capable, his performance against Wasps at The Rec (Bath’s home ground) suggests he’s more than capable of playing international rugby,” said Saxons coach Jon Callard.
“We’ll know probably a little more after Friday night.
“I would have thought if I was a betting man, the seniors would want him to start (against the Wolfhounds).”
Former England fullback Callard added: “The challenge for us is to get the best out of him, and all the other players as well.
We’ve got to give them that opportunity to show what they can do.
“I think Bath have handled him beautifully they’ve given him the experience, slowly put him into a European Cup situation, and given him that.
“And this is the next stage of his development.
“We’re all excited for Sam, but we’re just taking it very, very calmly.
“He’s still potentially got three World Cups in him.
“So I think there’s still plenty of time.”