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England rugby union coach welcomes Burgess

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

LONDON - England rugby union coach Stuart Lancaster says Sam Burgess will be a "great asset" in the 15-man game following his high-profile move from rugby league.

The 25-year-old will join English Premiership side Bath on a three-year contract in October from Australian rugby league side South Sydney Rabbitohs, with the ambitious aim of trying to gain a place in Lancaster's squad for next year's Rugby World Cup in England.

While England's 2003 World Cup-winning wing Jason Robinson was a notable success following his move from league, several Great Britain or England league internationals have struggled in union since the advent of professionalism.

But Lancaster is in no doubt Burgess can succeed as a union player.

"Sam's carrying game will be easily transferable," Lancaster said on Monday after news of Burgess's move was made public.

"His understanding of running lines and defence are skills that he'll be able to transition, although I wouldn't say it's easy.

"The big difference comes in and around the breakdown and the difference in gap between the defensive lines, which is obviously closer in rugby union, so timing is obviously an issue.

"In terms of overall rugby skill set, he has a very strong skill set.

"So I think he'll be a real asset, but there's a lot of learning to be done as well."

There have been suggestions that Burgess could play as an inside centre at Bath, and Lancaster warned against the idea of fielding him in the pack, for all the league star's physical strength, given the technical demands made upon forwards that have no equivalent in league.

"It's probably not my decision," Lancaster said. "The easiest way to start is without the complexity of the line-out and everything that goes with it — where there's work to be done on lifting and line-out and everything in the back row.

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