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Burgess set for World Cup - Ford

Published 13/07/2015

Sam Burgess, pictured, has been backed to win a place in England's World Cup squad by Bath head coach Mike Ford
Sam Burgess, pictured, has been backed to win a place in England's World Cup squad by Bath head coach Mike Ford

Bath boss Mike Ford expects Sam Burgess to make England's World Cup squad - and see the host nation reach the final at Twickenham on October 31.

Ford believes that Burgess will successfully make a quantum leap from Australia's NRL to England World Cup squad member, despite the Yorkshireman only making his union debut 227 days ago.

And Ford has backed England to book a World Cup final appointment - "probably taking on the All Blacks" - by capitalising on home advantage that would see them play six of seven games at Twickenham if they reach the final.

Burgess and the rest of a 45-man England training squad have now decamped to Denver, Colorado, for further intense pre-tournament training, with the countdown continuing towards head coach Stuart Lancaster's final World Cup squad announcement late next month.

England will play home and away warm-up games against France before Lancaster confirms his 31-player group for the tournament, and Ford expects ex-rugby league star Burgess to make the cut.

"Sam might be one of those decisions that Stuart has not quite made his mind up," Bath head coach Ford told Press Association Sport.

"But the rugby side of things will start now with England away in Denver, and the preparation in terms of the style they want to play.

"Hopefully, Sam will get a crack in the warm-up games. He was outstanding in the Aviva Premiership final (in May). I expect him to get in, if he gets a shot in the warm-up games, which I expect him to do.

"They (England) are running him at centre, but there is the ability that if Sam was on the bench, for example, he could also play back-row if they need it."

Burgess, who delivered a man-of-the-match display despite playing for 79 minutes with a fractured cheekbone during South Sydney Rabbitohs' NRL Grand Final triumph last October, helped Bath reach the Premiership final and European Champions Cup quarter-finals last season.

And Ford has been impressed with his adaptation to the 15-a-side code.

"It is pretty special what he has done. There was all the hype that came with it, all the scrutiny," added Ford, who was speaking at a Rugby World Cup Trophy Tour event in Bath on Monday.

"He has played in the centre, then the back-row, and I think moving forward he is going to be a world-class player in the back-row for Bath, and I certainly see him in the future playing number six for England."

Ford was part of England's coaching team at the 2007 and 2011 World Cups, so he is well-versed in experiencing the hype and expectation that rugby's global spectacular generates.

"With England playing at home, the expectation on them to be successful is one that the England management will have to manage very well," he said.

"But look, I would rather be at home than away, like we were in New Zealand four years ago.

"I think it's going to be special, and if you can embrace the hype well, then it can be used to your advantage.

"Home advantage, I think, is absolutely huge, and I expect England to get to the final, probably taking on the All Blacks, and what a game that would be."

England have been grouped in the tournament's so-called pool of death alongside Wales and Australia - only two teams will secure quarter-final places - yet Ford is not deterred by that challenging prospect.

"They (England) are in a tough group, but I think that's good," he added. "Playing hard games week in, week out, six or seven games on the run, makes you battle-hardened.

"Teams in easier groups might have easier wins, but it doesn't necessarily prepare you for the quarter-finals or the semi-finals, so I think England having Wales and Australia in their group is a good thing.

"They've got three warm-ups before the tournament, and I think it is important in the last two of those (against France and Ireland) that they put out their best side.

"They have got to hit the ground running against Fiji, which is a tricky one, because it is the first game of the tournament (on September 18) with all the world looking at you, and Fiji can be dangerous. So we can't be rusty in that game - we have got to make sure that we are ready to play.

"I think England are in a good place. If they play with courage and don't kick the ball too much, I think they can have a fantastic tournament."

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