England head coach Stuart Lancaster is convinced Sam Burgess will remain a rugby union player, despite speculation he will return to league rugby after the World Cup. Odds have been shortened on Burgess ending his cross-code adventure after only a year and one bookmaker has stopped taking bets, amid reports he is set to join Leeds Rhinos.
England crashed out of the World Cup with a 33-13 defeat by Australia on Saturday. Burgess’s contribution to the campaign was one start and two replacement appearances. The 26-year-old Yorkshireman has been dropped from the matchday 23 for Saturday’s final match against Uruguay and there is a groundswell of opinion that he has made his last Red Rose appearance.
Lancaster, however, insists Burgess will not be ending his three-and-a-half-year contract after only 12 months.
“I’ve not had any conversations with him about a move to rugby league at all,” Lancaster said. “Genuinely, 100%, I didn’t know that story was out there. My last conversation with him was about him going back to Bath. He can’t wait to get stuck into the Premiership. He feels he’s made good strides as a player and he wants to continue to improve.”
Lancaster offered a glimpse into England’s future by naming a midfield trio of George Ford, Owen Farrell and Henry Slade against Uruguay. Chris Robshaw remains as openside and captain. Completing the backline for the team’s World Cup death throes at Manchester City Stadium are scrum-half Danny Care, wing Jack Nowell and full-back Alex Goode.
“Sam wasn’t picked, because I want to have a look at this combination for this game,” Lancaster said. “I’ve watched George and Owen since they were 18 and looked at them as an option and combination. Slade has had to wait, but he’s a great one for the future. It’s an exciting selection. George, Owen, Henry, these guys are great players and will be great players for the future.”
The positions of Lancaster and his assistants Andy Farrell, Graham Rowntree and Mike Catt are subject to a review by the Rugby Football Union once the World Cup is over. Lancaster believes perspective is required during the longest week in Red Rose history.
“Clearly, you’re in a dark place. How do you brush something like that off?” he said. “But, equally as a leader in charge of the team you have to give everyone a sense of direction, purpose and perspective. That’s an important word.
“We’ve played some brilliant rugby over the past 12 or 18 months and even before then. We’ve not won every game, but we’ve won a lot and played some good rugby and people shouldn’t forget that. It’s important the players understand that and listen to what I’m saying about where they can go as a team in the future. I think they’ve got fantastic potential.”
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