RUGBY league convert Sam Burgess insists he is at ease with criticism from Will Carling after revealing the former England captain and fellow centre had contacted him to explain his scathing judgement.
Carling said last week that head coach Stuart Lancaster had made a mistake by including Burgess in his 31-man squad for this month’s Rugby World Cup and claimed there were other centres more deserving of selection.
He also suggested that Burgess could prove a defensive liability at the home tournament, which starts on 18 September, although the former South Sydney Rabbitohs powerhouse remained unmoved by Carling’s robust critique.
“I’ve spoken to Will,” said Burgess. “He got in touch after his comments. Will’s just passionate about England. He has his opinions and is entitled to them.
“I just think you should never take comments personally. At the end of the day it’s someone’s job to have an opinion and they’re fully entitled to do that. It’s fine.
“It doesn’t affect me as a player, I believe in myself and the people around me. Whether it affects me as a professional player isn’t really in question. You have to expect that kind of thing. I knew it would come around. I was already well prepared for it.
“As a player, I feel ready. I feel like a rugby union player and that I’m ready to do the job in hand and add my weight to the squad, in whatever capacity that may be.”
While the 26-year-old has his detractors, he also has many proponents, including Hollywood star and Rabbitohs co-owner Russell Crowe, who was instrumental in persuading Burgess to leave Bradford Bulls and head Down Under in 2009.
“I’ve spoken to Russell quite a bit,” added Burgess. “He’s ridden the wave as much as me. He just cares for me, which is wonderful, and it’s great to have him in my life.
“I do appreciate it and I daresay he might be an England fan during the World Cup, but we’ll wait and see.”