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Lancaster set to decide on Burgess

Published 17/07/2015

England coach Stuart Lancaster sees Sam Burgess, pictured, playing in the centre channels
England coach Stuart Lancaster sees Sam Burgess, pictured, playing in the centre channels

Stuart Lancaster insists England will learn within the next three weeks whether Sam Burgess can challenge for a World Cup place at centre.

Lancaster insists Burgess will only be considered as a midfield option and not at blindside flanker, the position in which he produced his best rugby since switching codes to join Bath last October.

A lack of line-out expertise and the disciplinary-enforced absence of Manu Tuilagi have shaped England's thinking and Burgess has been running at centre during the high altitude training camp in Denver.

The inter-squad matches being held over the coming weeks will give the management the chance to assess the 26-year-old's progress, with the first warm-up game against France on August 15 potentially offering the chance to assess his development in the heat of battle.

When asked if Burgess will be ready for the World Cup, Lancaster said: "We'll see. The time line was always going to be tight.

"Sam's done a fantastic job in developing his understanding of the game and over the next two to three weeks we'll see if he can make that step. All the signs are good.

"He enjoyed his time at centre at Bath, who have very much used him as a ball carrier in the way that we would use him. Sam is fine about playing centre."

England's line-out requirements and the need to find an extra source of firepower with Tuilagi suspended until January have narrowed Burgess' options to 12.

"Sam is still learning the game and coming to terms with the complexities of the lineout, especially at international level, and the importance of it," Lancaster said.

"That has to be a consideration. And when you've got the quality of lineout forwards that we have, that plays a part in our thinking as well.

"In the back row we need our sixes to be effective in the line-out and there are some big players in our line-out calling structure.

"Tom Wood, for example, is the third most thrown to forward when he's played and James Haskell we've also used quite a lot. Tom Croft is nearing fitness now as well.

"Without Manu in the backline, we need options that give us physicality. We're confident from what we've seen that he'd be capable of competing at centre."

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