England rookie Sam Burgess insists he unfazed by being thrust into the starting line-up for Saturday's pivotal Rugby World Cup fixture against Wales at Twickenham.
The rugby league convert, 26, has just three caps to his name since switching codes last year but is set to form an untried centre combination with Brad Barritt for the Pool A showdown.
“I believe in myself. I feel I have the respect of my teammates and the staff. That is the opinion that counts for me. I’ve played a lot of rugby at 12 [inside centre] in the last few months and I feel ready,” he said.
“I don’t believe what people say. I believe in Stuart [Lancaster, England coach] and what he’s picked. My job is to deliver in the job he has given me. The exterior talk is that we move on and believe in ourselves.”
Burgess, who enjoyed a glittering rugby league career with England, Great Britain, Bradford Bulls and South Sydney Rabbitohs, revealed it was the prospect of occasions such as tomorrow’s which fuelled his determination to gatecrash Lancaster’s World Cup plans.
“I did have a vision of doing it. This is what I wanted to achieve, to be part of this squad,” he added. “This is up there. It is a big game. I am really excited to be a part of it, but it is just another game. I don’t want to let the occasion take over. This is an exciting time to be part of England rugby, especially starting against Wales. I am really looking forward to the atmosphere.”
Lancaster denied that his adoption of an unfamiliar midfield combination that also sees fly-half George Ford replaced by Owen Farrell constituted an unnecessary risk in a pool dubbed the Group of Death.
“It is not a gamble. People said it was a gamble to put him in the squad. But day by day, week by week, he is proving people wrong,” said Lancaster, who cited Burgess’s late impact in the opening win over Fiji.
“I have every confidence that he can defend well. I am confident he can deal with the big-game experience. I have confidence that he will get over the gainline. It is a step for him but I think he is ready for it.
“He has more than proven in the last few months that he is capable of playing at this level. My confidence has grown on the way he has come on and contributed off the bench. We scored two tries at the end of the game against Fiji and they were a lot to do with Owen Farrell and Sam Burgess.”
Lancaster admitted Bath No10 Ford had been “disappointed” to be dropped but insisted he still had “a big role to play” in the short and long term, and insisted Farrell would not let England down.
“If I was replacing Ford with someone who had no international experience, you would say yes. But putting an in-form and confident Owen Farrell in the team isn’t a risk,” added Lancaster.