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Grayson backs Burgess for cup role

Published 13/08/2015

Sam Burgess, pictured, deserves a chance in the England centre role, says Paul Grayson
Sam Burgess, pictured, deserves a chance in the England centre role, says Paul Grayson

World Cup winner Paul Grayson believes that rugby league import Sam Burgess has a definite chance of making the England squad for next month's tournament.

Burgess, who only made his union debut last November, will win a first England cap in Saturday's opening World Cup warm-up clash against France at Twickenham.

It is widely thought that Burgess, Exeter's Henry Slade and Gloucester captain Billy Twelvetrees are battling for one midfield place in the final 31-man World Cup party that is due to be announced by England head coach Stuart Lancaster during the next three weeks.

And Grayson, who was part of two World Cup squads including England's triumphant 2003 group, believes Burgess could end up featuring at the business end of selection.

"I always thought that centre would be where he could make a genuine difference. I was happily surprised by how well he did towards the end of the season, playing number six (for Bath)," Grayson said.

"I think Lancaster will go for him as an out and out 12. It is a toss of the coin whether it would be worth the risk or not.

"The options he has got at 12, Brad Barritt would be my starting 12 and defensive captain. He brings the solidity you need between George Ford and Jonathan Joseph. Burgess would play a similar role.

"I don't see any point in necessarily having a ball-playing 12 when you have got a ball-playing fly-half. You are over-egging the pudding if you do that, so Burgess has got a chance, I think.

"Ford and Owen Farrell are two quality players. George just edges it in terms of his creativity and what he can bring in attack, but it was nice to see Owen come back at the end of last season and stamp his mark all over the Aviva Premiership final. I think when it comes down to it it will be Ford first, Farrell second."

Assessing Lancaster's final World Cup selection task, former Northampton fly-half Grayson added: "I would have thought in his head there maybe are one or two players who have an opportunity to put their hand up in these next two games against France, or conversely, you can play your way out of it.

"These are nervy days for the players who are just on the fringe - I can vouch for that from experience.

"England certainly have a lot of talented players and it is time to win, definitely. They have had lots of second places over the last few years.

"Whether they will go all the way or not I don't know, but I can certainly see them making the final."

And one player Grayson believes could really step up to the World Cup plate is Northampton star Courtney Lawes, whose potential second-row partnership with Joe Launchbury promises to be a pillar of England's challenge.

"This is the chance to establish yourself as genuinely world-class," Grayson said. "I think Courtney can be stratospheric. He understands the game and he brings an immense physical presence.

"If you are a fly-half playing against him you have always got in the corner of your eye where is he coming from next. He is a complete all-round package."

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