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Warren Gatland: Sam Burgess to receive same attention as England team-mates

Published 24/09/2015

Wales will oppose Sam Burgess for the first time in Saturday's World Cup clash against England at Twickenham
Wales will oppose Sam Burgess for the first time in Saturday's World Cup clash against England at Twickenham

Warren Gatland says Wales will not single out Sam Burgess for special attention in Saturday's crunch World Cup clash against England.

Burgess, despite playing just 112 minutes of international rugby union since his high-profile switch from league a year ago, lines up in England's reshaped midfield alongside centre partner Brad Barritt and fly-half Owen Farrell.

It is considered in many quarters to be a major gamble by England head coach Stuart Lancaster, especially for a game of such magnitude, as both teams face an early major test of their quarter-final ambitions.

Asked about Burgess' inexperience, Wales head coach Gatland said: "He's got inexperience at rugby (union), but not at big occasions.

"He is a big man at 6ft 5in. You don't single out anyone personally, you just concentrate on yourself. We won't be trying to single out Sam Burgess at all.

"We will be going out there to smash him like everyone else. That's the kind of approach. We're not rubbing our hands together about one player thinking there's a weakness there at all - that is not the way we look at it.

"When you underestimate a player, it comes back to bite you. You can't single out any one individual."

England's midfield reorganisation has been largely forced due to an injury suffered by outside centre attacking force Jonathan Joseph, and Gatland acknowledged Joseph's threat.

"What has caused us problems with England in the last couple of years has been footwork," he added.

"Joseph has caused us a lot of problems at centre - he has been one of the outstanding centres in world rugby in the last 12 months or so - and (Anthony) Watson and (Jonny) May are great finishers as well. They are a threat," he added.

"I am not sure that Burgess and Barritt have the same footwork as they do, but they will be more direct as players and bring a physical element that will be required at this level.

"England may play a certain way. For both sides, it's kicking smartly, and I think you will see a a pretty tight game for a period.

"England talk about taking teams to a kill zone, and you have to be able to match that intensity for the whole 80 minutes.

"In the Six Nations (last season), we were comfortable for 40 minutes in that first game, and basically England then blew us away.

"We got dragged into a game that we didn't want to do. They wanted to keep the ball in the scrums and they wanted to drive every lineout. We have got to be aware that that is potentially a tactic they might bring on Saturday, and they have the ability to revert to that.

"We have got to make sure that we've got to be able to impose ourselves on them as well."

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