As soon as Stuart Lancaster revealed changes will be made to England’s starting XV to face Wales one name stood out from the crowd. Sam Burgess, with only one competitive Test appearance under his belt, is now firmly in contention to start Saturday’s colossal clash at Twickenham.
Still in the early stages of his rugby union education but with a presence unmatched in England’s squad, Burgess brought dynamism to Lancaster’s side in his 19 minutes against Fiji – thundering into contact and adding direction that had been lacking. Furthermore Brad Barritt endured an off-colour night at inside-centre and will be relying on past glories to keep his place.
It would be a bold call from Lancaster, who will reveal his team on Thursday, but would not require justification, according to Owen Farrell, another who made a positive impact from the bench on Friday and who is breathing down the neck of the incumbent fly-half, George Ford.
“That’s why he’s here. He wouldn’t have been picked otherwise. Sam’s a brilliant rugby player. He’s a leader in the team and I am sure he would be massively confident as well,” said Farrell. “It’s not something that anybody’s hiding, is it? He’s played well all year for Bath.. He’s gone well in all the games he has played in the warm-ups. We have trained a fair bit together. It is just getting familiar to the people around you.”
Mike Catt, England’s attacking skills coach, was similarly forthright: “I don’t understand why Sam has to justify anything. We’ve known what Sam brings, what Brad brings, what everybody in the squad brings. We’ve backed Sam and Sam’s done his job [on Saturday]. We know he’s a big-game player. He’s a great competitor but so are the other guys around him.”