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Burgess v Slade: Head-to-head

Published 14/08/2015

Will Greenwood has cast his expert eye over England's midfield hopefuls
Will Greenwood has cast his expert eye over England's midfield hopefuls

Uncapped centres Sam Burgess and Henry Slade enter Saturday's clash with France at Twickenham locked in direct competition for a place in England's World Cup squad.

Head coach Stuart Lancaster has stated it is highly unlikely both would be picked for the global showpiece. Here, former Red Rose and British and Irish Lions centre Will Greenwood analyses the rivals.


Slade has a great kicking game, is a wonderful distributor and reads the game well. He is quick and has superb feet. Burgess has a huge amount of power and there is so much focus on him from defenders that he could be lethal as a decoy runner. He is such a great off-loader of the ball and if someone runs down his channel too obviously, he can absolutely put them in a pile. He's a proven winner.


Burgess' obvious weakness is his lack of experience in international rugby, or in union in general. That could also be Slade's shortcoming, but I expect Slade's union nous will allow him to settle very quickly against France. There is the perception with Henry that size is not on his side compared to other international centres. I believe this is unfair, but a midfield combination of George Ford, Slade and Jonathan Joseph could weigh as much as only two New Zealand centres.


It is important that you do not become too focused on versatility because in reality, you have seen down the years that it is better to go like for like on replacements. It is nice to have versatility on the bench, but no one wants to be on the bench, they all want to start. With fly-halves Ford and Owen Farrell, one of them will definitely start and the other will definitely be on the bench, so there is less need for a utility midfield player. I do not think Lancaster will base his decision on versatility.


Neither of them have played for England so that decision cannot be made until we have seen them against France. We need to see them at Twickenham in an England shirt in front of a large crowd before we can make that judgement. There is no need to make that decision until they have played, but it is definitely the key decision that head coach Stuart Lancaster has to make.

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