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Will Greenwood wants England fans to put their faith in the 31-man England squad

Published 27/08/2015

Rugby World Cup 2003 winner Will Greenwood wants England fans to get behind Stuart Lancaster's choices
Rugby World Cup 2003 winner Will Greenwood wants England fans to get behind Stuart Lancaster's choices

World Cup-winning centre Will Greenwood believes England fans must place their faith in Stuart Lancaster after the head coach opted to take Sam Burgess to the World Cup and dispense with Danny Cipriani.

Burgess beat Luther Burrell to the final centre berth in Lancaster's 31-man squad, less than a year since converting from rugby league and after just one Test cap.

But Cipriani saw a late charge for selection ended as Lancaster opted for specialists at both full-back and fly-half.

"There's been some brutally tough decisions made by Stuart Lancaster but now is the time to trust him and his coaches," Greenwood said.

"They have seen much more than us in training. It is time to back this 31-man squad."

Burgess' World Cup status has been a hot talking point almost as long as he has been a rugby union player with Bath, but Greenwood believes it is a conversation that must be placed in context given that Brad Barritt and Jonathan Joseph are inked in as the starting midfield pair.

"Look, it's the fourth choice centre we're talking about here," he told Sky Sports News.

"Is there a seismic difference in value that would be offered by Burrell and Burgess? Of course not; you're never going to be all things to all men and if the call went the other way then we'd be saying Burgess was the unlucky one.

"The same can be said about (Nick) Easter missing out to (Ben) Morgan, or (Alex) Corbisiero missing out on a place in the squad."

Bath head coach Mike Ford has been lobbying for Burgess' inclusion, despite using him as a flanker at the club.

He told BBC Radio 5 Live: "What Sam did for South Sydney last year he did for Bath rugby last year, that's key for us and key for England.

"Sam Burgess does what he does and he's done it all his life. If that continues to be the case he can only add to the England rugby team."

Congratulations poured in for Burgess on Twitter, notably from two former rugby league stars who also made the move to union - albeit with varying level of success.

Jason Robinson, a World Cup winner in 2003, wrote: ''Big congrats to @SamBurgess8 on his selection! Most said that I'd only make the bench but ended up making history! All the best buddy.''

Martin Offiah, whose time in the 15-man code was a brief coda to his stellar league career, posted: ''Made up for Sam Burgess. Lots of league fans will be watching the World Cup now for sure.''

There was also a colourful message of support from actor Russell Crowe, who owns the South Sydney Rabbitohs and is a vocal Burgess fan.

"F*** me ... Lancaster you fr****** champion. @AllBlacks take note. These boys are intending to win. @Wallabies it's the Poms ... natural.

"They did it @englishrugby made the competitive decision. Holy s*** the @2015_RWC is on."

Cipriani's omission had been heavily trailed in the 24 hours before the squad announcement and he found a sympathetic ear in former cricketer Kevin Pietersen - another maverick performer judged extraneous by England.

"Lancaster has had an absolute MARE! Sport is about winning & winners, mate! It's not an army camp! #Cipriani" he tweeted.

Former Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll offered a more measured assessment of the various calls, writing: ''No place Cipriani... Interesting selection. Pleased to see Henry Slade picked and intrigued to see how Burgess goes.''

Sir Clive Woodward, who led the nation to Webb Ellis glory 12 years ago, left the chosen men with one brief, motivational Tweet.

"Congrats to 31 players - opportunity of a lifetime now, all your big games at Twickenham - good luck everyone, will be a brilliant World Cup."

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