Dawson: Burgess should not make World Cup squad

Ross McLean
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Burgess received mixed reviews after debut
FORMER England scrum-half Matt Dawson has insisted that rugby league convert Sam Burgess does not warrant a place in head coach Stuart Lancaster’s World Cup squad after making his international debut against France at Twickenham on Saturday.

Former South Sydney Rabbitohs star Burgess made his first England appearance at centre alongside fellow debutant Henry Slade at No13 as Lancaster’s side beat France 19-14 in the first of three preparatory QBE Internationals ahead of this autumn’s World Cup.

Dawson has previously stated that Burgess lacks the game-management to be an international centre, having predominately played at blindside flanker for club side Bath last season, and believes the 26-year-old was exposed against Les Bleus.

“You can’t take him to the World Cup. Positionally he wasn’t great. He played like a No6 rather than a No12,” said Dawson, who was part of England’s World Cup-winning squad of 2003.

Bath head coach Mike Ford, meanwhile, disagrees with Dawson’s stance and is adamant that Burgess’s showing against France, during which he received a yellow card for pulling back France’s Morgan Parra, showed promise.

While Bath’s Jonathan Joseph and Brad Barritt of Saracens are prime candidates for England’s first-choice centre pairing, Ford sees no reason why Lancaster’s squad should not contain Burgess and Slade when it is finalised on 31 August.

“He made a number of tackles, some of them very hard-hitting,” said Ford. “I also thought he was okay with the football, he did a couple of nice passes. He did everything right, he even got a try-saver at an important time.

“I think he did enough to make the squad. Lancaster is looking for leadership off the field and a presence in midfield. I thought Henry Slade played well and I don’t see they can’t take them both.”