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Callard defends Burgess display

England Saxons coach Jon Callard defended Sam Burgess after his disappointing representative union debut in the 18-9 victory over Ireland Wolfhounds in Cork.

Burgess produced several conspicuous mistakes in the first half before becoming a peripheral figure after the interval, apart from another brief error-ridden spell, and on this evidence has little chance of being involved in the RBS 6 Nations.

Callard chose to praise the powerful 26-year-old's work off the ball with his union apprenticeship still numbering only eight games.

"Sam has had a great week for us, but unfortunately didn't have the ball on the front foot and probably tried to force a couple of things," Callard said.

"He made a lovely little break and offload, which is what his strength is, but we just couldn't get him into the game at set-piece.

"But he was influential on the shape we had in attack. He pulled defenders out with his running, which created space out wide.

"What he did with the ball in hand wasn't there to see, but he did a lot of good stuff without the ball.

"Sam has only had a session and a half in the England set up, but he created space for others and that's what the game is about."

Fly-half Henry Slade and wing Christian Wade scored tries in a hard-fought win against a strong Wolfhounds team, but it was a flawed performance at Irish Independent Park with the set-piece particularly weak.

"(England head coach) Stuart Lancaster talked to the squad on Monday and told the players he expected them to win and expected them to be hurting that they've been left out of the senior squad," Callard said.

"I'm very proud of our attacking rugby. The players gave everything against a good Irish side.

"We scored two tries and nilled them on tries, which was very impressive. The players deserve all the credit.

"We fell too many times on the scrum, but we showed great composure and discipline outside of that."

Sean O'Brien made a successful return from shoulder surgery and Ireland must now decide whether he is ready for their Six Nations opener against Italy in Rome next week.

"I got 50 minutes under my belt and I was just happy to be out there. Ideally I'd like more game time before Italy, but there aren't any more opportunities," O'Brien said.

"I'd usually get two or three games under my belt but with the short window that's not possible.

"There was no reaction on the shoulder and that will give me confidence. I took a few good hits so I'm happy enough."


From Belfast Telegraph