England's Stuart Lancaster defends World Cup hopeful Sam Burgess in face of criticism

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England head coach Stuart Lancaster has hit back at the criticism fired in the direction of rugby league convert Sam Burgess following his international bow against France at Twickenham on Saturday.

Former World Cup-winning scrum-half Matt Dawson has warned Lancaster against selecting Burgess in his World Cup squad, while in the past has questioned the 26-year-old’s game-management while playing at centre.

“Everyone is entitled to their opinion,” said Lancaster. “We’ve got far greater knowledge of what is going on inside the camp and how he is progressing.

“I thought he got a lot of what he needed to do right [against France]. It was a big game for him. To come in and play your first cap against a side of the quality of France and make the impression that he did, I thought he did great.”

Lancaster is expected to select four centres when he finalises his World Cup squad on 31 August. Saracens’ Brad Barritt has emerged as an injury doubt for Saturday’s QBE International against France in Paris after suffering a tight calf.

Barritt and Bath’s Jonathan Joseph are viewed as England’s first-choice pairing, while Luther Burrell and Billy Twelvetrees are in the mix alongside Saturday’s debutants, Burgess and Henry Slade. Lancaster admits that centre is proving a selection headache.

“It would be nice to have a few more warm-up games before we make the decision but we don’t,” added Lancaster. “It’s that position in particular that is taking up most of the time in selection.”

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