Stuart Lancaster has included Sam Burgess in England's World Cup squad on merit
England head coach Stuart Lancaster is adamant rugby league convert Sam Burgess has been included in his 31-man World Cup squad on merit.
The 26-year-old completes a remarkable rise since moving from South Sydney Rabbitohs to Bath last October by being included in Lancaster's squad for the tournament which opens on September 18 when England play Fiji at Twickenham.
"He's picked on merit from what we've seen in the camp," Lancaster said.
"Obviously he's come in, learnt the game at Bath. He's played a lot of time at 12, sometimes at six, but a lot of time certainly standing in the centres.
"He's earned the right. I wouldn't describe it as a gamble. I understand the size of this decision, but I understand the size of every decision when you're in a World Cup year. Every one is a big one."
Northampton's Luther Burrell was the centre to miss out as Henry Slade of Exeter was included alongside Burgess.
Lancaster dismissed suggestions of a final trial on Wednesday, when the players faced their opposite numbers, with Burgess lining up between Owen Farrell and Slade, against Danny Cipriani, Brad Barritt and Burrell.
Sale fly-half Cipriani was another to miss out as Ben Morgan was named as one of England's number eights, ahead of Nick Easter.
Burgess and Slade have impressed during the course of England's summer-long camp, including in their debuts against France earlier this month.
Lancaster said: "They've absolutely trained the house down, impressed everyone, not just us (the coaching staff), but the players themselves and come into that France game and made two debuts that I've not seen before.
"That was a reflection of how well they've both done. Subsequently since then they've maintained that.
England backs coach Andy Farrell, who himself converted from rugby league to play in the 2007 World Cup with England, said of Burgess: "He's been behind the eight ball as far as time's concerned and obviously everyone's got an opinion.
"To force our hand to put him into the squad, he should be unbelievably proud of himself."
Kieran Brookes was picked as prop ahead of Alex Corbisiero, who has been hampered by injury of late, while George Kruis was selected as a second row with Dave Attwood omitted.
Centre Billy Twelvetrees, flanker Calum Clark and hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie were the others to miss out.
Lancaster has informed the players of his decision over the last three days and described the selection process as a "rollercoaster".
Lancaster insisted all the players had a fair chance to be selected.
Cipriani was bidding to play fly-half and full-back, but specialists Farrell and George Ford were selected at number 10 and Alex Goode and Mike Brown at number 15.
"I can reassure everyone, 100 per cent, that in training everybody has had an opportunity to put themselves forward," Lancaster added.
"It's tough on Danny. He is a good player. We think he's improved an awful lot and he's been fantastic in the camp."
There has been speculation Dylan Hartley could be brought into the squad if England have a hooker withdraw, even though the Northampton forward is banned for the Fiji contest.
Lancaster would not entertain the hypothetical question.
"We've got to pick a World Cup on players that are available," Lancaster said.
"We've got to put our time and energy and belief into the three hookers in the squad.
"I'm not going to spend my time thinking 'could Dylan be here'. The reality is he can't. He's banned. He was banned for four games."
Cipriani gave his reaction on his Twitter feed.
He said: "I appreciate how hard selection is, there are so many boys who worked hard in camp and got less time than me so I feel fortunate to get the time that I did.
"Of course I would have liked more time to state my case and am very disappointed not to make the squad.
"I've worked hard and developed as a player in the last 10 weeks and did all I could. I thoroughly enjoyed the camp and fully understand the route the coaches have gone down.
"I wouldn't be a true competitor if I said I agreed as we all believe in ourselves. But I had a long way to make up as the squad has been building since 2012.
"I've had open conversations with Stuart and the coaches the whole time and learnt a lot from them and enjoyed my time.
"It's just the start of my journey. I'm going to stay fit and be ready if I'm called upon. Now that the call's been made lets just all get behind the team and back the 31. Full of world class players! World Cup in England! Let's be proud Englishmen and back it."