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Lancaster: Burgess Bath bow bonus


Sam Burgess is poised to make his Bath debut

Sam Burgess is poised to make his Bath debut

Sam Burgess is poised to make his Bath debut

Sam Burgess' early Bath debut will be "a bonus" for his chances of making next year's World Cup squad, according to Stuart Lancaster.

Bath recruit Burgess is ready for his league debut against Harlequins on Friday night a month ahead of schedule after quickfire recovery from his shattered cheekbone.

The 25-year-old suffered his nasty cheek and eye-socket injury in the NRL Grand Final last month - his final game in league. He suffered the break inside a minute but stayed on and won the man of the match award as South Sydney won their first NRL title in 43 years.

Now just a month after arriving at Bath he has been named on the bench for Friday's Recreation Ground clash against Harlequins.

"It's a bonus that he's starting this early, but it's a long way to go before we start picking our World Cup squad," said Lancaster.

"It will come down to how he plays; the earlier he learns how to play the game, the more he can learn about it.

"Having worked in the north at Leeds we've had a lot of players come across from league. Some adapted very quickly and others took longer.

"I'm pleased, and I'll be watching: it will be fascinating to see how he goes.

"Obviously he's been passed fit and has learned the game pretty quickly.

"He's watched a lot of union so the next step is to have a crack. It's great that Bath have put him in there."

Burgess suffered his nasty facial injury in collision with fellow Brit James Graham in South Sydney's 30-6 NRL final victory over Canterbury Bulldogs on October 5, but refused to leave the field. He broke down in tears at the final whistle.

The England Rugby League star required surgery before he could kick-start his Bath career, but is now ready to take the union plunge.

Burgess has been the subject of a club-versus-country tussle ever since his big-money Bath move was announced, with Bath head coach Mike Ford adamant he will be best-deployed in the back-row in the long-run.

England boss Lancaster wants to see Burgess feature at inside centre, now the national side's problem position.

"A few areas (positions) have been thrown around," said Burgess.

"If I am quite honest, I don't know where I am best suited. Over time, I think that will become clear.

"Nothing is set in stone, and there is no pressure on myself from Mike (Bath head coach Mike Ford) to do anything. I am just going to get in there, knuckle down and do my best."

Harlequins have pitched discarded England scrum-half Danny Care back into action at scrum-half, after the 27-year-old was released from Test duties on Monday.

Rugby director Conor O'Shea has challenged Quins to hit back from last weekend's frustrating 16-12 home defeat to Sale Sharks, making three changes to his starting line-up.

"We have pulled off extremely difficult away victories at Wasps and Gloucester in the last six weeks, so to go from that to the weekend loss was hugely tough to take," said O'Shea.

"It's a vital month ahead, with back-to-back European games against Leinster next: we can't afford to lose focus again."

Bath are sticking true to their word of starting Burgess in midfield, as he will cover the centres for the visit of Harlequins, but Ford still harbours hopes of a fruitful future as a loose-forward for his star recruit.

Burgess himself has played down a quick assimilation into Lancaster's England squad in time for next year's World Cup, admitting he must learn the game before dreaming of a Test call.

The England boss will keep a close eye on Bath's new arrival however, and Burgess' devastating line-breaking abilities ensure he retains every chance of featuring in next year's Six Nations.

"It (England selection) is something I have no control over," said Burgess.

"There are always going to be outside influences that have their opinion. That's part of the game, part of the sport and part of the challenge to ignore what is going on.

"In rugby league in Australia you are scrutinised in fine detail, so I have learnt a lot in five years over there. Hopefully, I can bring that here with me into my new career at Bath.

"Sometimes the greatest challenge of all is beating the outside noise, and once you find the key to that then it is quite easy."