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Burgess relishing Saxons chance

Sam Burgess has admitted to a sense of "real excitement" after being picked for the England Saxons squad just 55 days into his competitive rugby union career.

The former rugby league superstar has clinched a place in a 24-man Saxons group for their appointment with the Irish Wolfhounds on January 30.

It is understood he is on course to start as part of the Saxons midfield in Cork, despite having made only seven first-team appearances for Bath since his high-profile switch from NRL champions South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Burgess spent his early weeks in Bath recovering from a facial injury suffered during the NRL grand final, but he then made a debut off the bench against Harlequins in late November before three starts followed, including a try-scoring display in the Aviva Premiership victory over Wasps earlier this month.

"I am really excited. It's a great opportunity to get out and see what I can do within the English set-up," Burgess told Press Association Sport at Bath's training base in Farleigh Hungerford.

"I am looking forward to meeting a few guys.

"Obviously, the injury delayed things, so it is good to get the opportunity.

"It has been a steep learning curve for me. You learn in training, but I think you do the most realistic learning on a game day.

"Certainly, as my minutes on the field have crept up, I think my performances have improved and I have got more game-awareness.

"There is still so much to learn and so many things to improve on, but I am really enjoying the transition. I am starting to understand the game a bit more."

Burgess, 26, has also featured twice for Bath United in the Premiership's A League, starting both games in the back-row, but his immediate union future appears nailed on as a centre.

"I think the game is as complicated as you make it," he added.

"I try to look at it as simple as possible. If you do the simple things well, you put yourself in a good position.

"Understanding the breakdown of all the different areas of the game has been interesting. The skill level inside a game is unbelievable.

"It's chaos out there on the field in terms of everything happening so fast. Every ruck is contestable, and it is a totally different mindset.

"I am just taking it day by day. It literally is one game at a time for me. I will stick with that, and keep trying to improve on a weekly basis."

Burgess will be joined in the Saxons group by his Bath colleagues Ollie Devoto, Henry Thomas and Matt Garvey, while the club's exhilarating current form is underlined by backs Anthony Watson, George Ford, Jonathan Joseph and Kyle Eastmond all making England's RBS 6 Nations training squad.

And Burgess is quick to recognise the contribution of those players to his development.

"The other players here are great," he said. "I couldn't be surrounded by better players - it's hard enough to get in the Bath team, never mind an England team!

"It is great to learn from these guys, and the good habits from these great players."

And in terms of reporting for duty with the Saxons, Burgess added: "I will certainly be asking a few questions of players and why they do certain things.

"It will mean a lot to me to be part of the Saxons squad.

"I will get to learn again via a different set of eyes and ears, and see different theories and how different coaches look at things."

Burgess apart, other eye-catching Saxons selections include Saracens' England Under-20 captain Maro Itoje, while considerable experience is provided by the likes of Saracens wing Chris Ashton and Leicester flanker Tom Croft.

Itoje said: "I'm massively honoured and it's something that I wasn't really expecting. I am really privileged to have been called up.

"Obviously, this is a great a step for me and it will give me the opportunity to play on a bigger scale.

"This is my first senior England involvement, so I am looking forward to training and hopefully I will be able to thrive in this environment."


From Belfast Telegraph