ENGLAND skills coach Mike Catt has backed rugby league convert Sam Burgess to make a seamless transition into the starting XV should he be selected to face Wales on Saturday.
Burgess impressed from the bench after replacing centre Brad Barritt shortly after the hour mark as England opened their Rugby World Cup campaign with a 35-11 victory over Fiji on Friday.
The 26-year-old, who only switched codes less than a year ago, helped re-establish England’s momentum against the Pacific Islanders at a time when the prospect of scoring a potentially pivotal bonus point was slipping away.
“Yes,” said World Cup winner Catt, in relation to whether Burgess could cope with starting against Wales. “What we saw against Fiji we’ve seen all along from Sam.
“We back Sam. Sam’s job on Friday was to come off the bench and cause the opposition problems and that’s exactly what he did. He’s a big-game player and a great competitor.”
Head coach Stuart Lancaster has already hinted that he may be tempted to shuffle his pack when he names his matchday squad for the showdown with Warren Gatland’s Wales at Twickenham.
Lancaster will announce his team on Thursday morning for the crucial Pool A clash. Depending on other results, the losers would likely have to beat Australia to stand any realistic chance of progressing.
“There will be certain individuals who will be disappointed with their performances against Fiji, but there’s a lot of experience there to pull each other through and really give it a go,” added Catt.
“Richard Wigglesworth, Owen Farrell, Mako and Billy Vunipola – the whole bench came on and made a huge impact. From our point it’s exactly how we wanted it to unfold.
“The guys will come into camp and we’ll see how they train. We haven’t made any decisions yet. We know that defensively we’ll have to make sure we’re good in certain areas against Wales to stop their big runners off first phase.
“We’re massively excited about this game on Saturday. It’s exactly what the World Cup is about. It will probably be the biggest game a lot of the guys have ever played. It’s very, very exciting.”
Australia are the only team in Pool A not to have played. Michael Cheika’s side play Fiji at the Millennium Stadium on Wednesday and lie five points behind Wales and England at the summit.