McNamara: Burgess a born leader
Sam Burgess can be one of the leaders in Stuart Lancaster's World Cup squad, according to England rugby league head coach Steve McNamara.
The 26-year-old Bath centre or flanker was named in Lancaster's 50-strong squad just six months after switching codes but will have a big influence on the group, says McNamara, the former Bradford coach who has maintained regular contact with the player ever since giving him his Super League debut at the age of 17 .
McNamara, who is on a whistle-stop trip to the UK from his Sydney base, spoke to Burgess on the day of his selection, which he says came as no surprise.
"It's no surprise whatsoever," McNamara told a media briefing in Manchester. "He's an effervescent sort of character and I think his leadership will shine through.
"I think he will come to grips with the game quickly in whatever position they decide for him and he will be important.
"There's going to be a number of things that are important in terms of the team being successful but I think having some great leaders amongst your playing group is really important.
"Whether he has the same influence on the field, that will be up to the coaches to decide, but I can guarantee he will have a really professional influence on the group."
Burgess, who won an NRL Grand-Final title with South Sydney last October, is one one of six former rugby league players in Lancaster's 50-strong group.
The other converts are Chris Ashton (Wigan), Stephen Myler (Widnes) and Kyle Eastmond (St Helens), while George Ford and Owen Farrell both played league at junior level.
McNamara says he takes a sense of pride rather than envy or frustration at seeing the ex-league players making their mark in the 15-man game.
"For our players born and bred in rugby league to convert and be as good as they are shows the quality of athlete we produce," McNamara said.
"I think it's a real credit to those individuals and to the people who have coached them and brought them up.
"Of course, we'd love to have all those players available to England rugby league but they're not and we have to focus on the ones we have got. It's good to see them doing well in another code."