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O'Driscoll: Burgess isn't ready yet

Published 20/08/2015

Brian O'Driscoll doubts Sam Burgess is the midfield man England need
Brian O'Driscoll doubts Sam Burgess is the midfield man England need

Brian O'Driscoll rates Sam Burgess' attacking game below the standard required at international level and was more impressed by Henry Slade during England's victory over France.

Burgess and Slade forged a new-look centre partnership as they made their Test debuts at Twickenham last Saturday in their only opportunity to advance claims for inclusion in Stuart Lancaster's World Cup squad.

Lancaster looks set to take powerful rugby league convert Burgess to England 2015 at the expense of Slade, whose intelligent passing helped set up two of the three tries in the 19-14 victory over France.

Former British and Irish Lions captain O'Driscoll, who played inside and outside centre for Ireland during a celebrated career, said it was Slade and not Burgess who caught his eye.

"Burgess has proper defensive X Factor, of that there's no doubt," O'Driscoll said on

"His tackle technique and strength in the hit were never in question and for me, he has just the right amount of thug in him to make having a go just a fleeting thought.

"When his team has the ball though, I just don't think he's quite up to speed at international level just yet.

"I said it last season watching him play for Bath that the difference between attack play in league and union is that in union the hard work starts when the player is tackled and the ruck forms.

"In league, the tackle completes the play with no rucking needed. Two very different mindsets.

"As much as all eyes were on the league convert, it was actually his centre partner that stole the show for me.

"I've only seen small quantities of Henry Slade but what I've seen, I've really liked. The fact he can play 10, 12 & 13 will both help and hinder him in the future.

"Versatility is a great tool to own as a bench player, but it can sometimes work against you for a starting spot.

"I'm not sure he's going to be considered for this year's World Cup due to his lack of international experience.

"I also think that because of the way Stuart Lancaster wants to play the game, his size could count against him, but he has plenty of good years to come.

"I can see him playing 12 in a Mike Catt type role going forward, if England have aspirations to play a more expansive brand in time."

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