Sam Burgess has found moving from rugby league to union harder than proving himself in the 13-a-side code as an Englishman in Australia but, less than six months after making his debut for Bath, he believes he is ready for a call-up by England.
The national head coach Stuart Lancaster will next week name his extended squad to prepare for the World Cup and Burgess, who has settled at blindside flanker at Bath after starting his union career in the centre, will be one of the most talked about players ahead of the announcement.
"I think Sam should be in the squad," said the Bath director of rugby Mike Ford, a former England coach.
"As he can cover centre and the back row, it gives you the option of having a 6-2 split on the bench. It suits us having Sam at six because we have Kyle Eastmond and Jonathan Joseph in the centre, but if England want him as a 12, you suspect it would be as a crash-ball player and they would need a ball player somewhere else in the backline."
Burgess was being linked with England before he made his Bath debut last November and he thought he would make an immediate impact in union.
“I did expect a lot early on,” he said. “I didn’t realise how long it was going to take before it started to become second nature. Now I have been here for six or seven months, I am happy with what I have learned and where I am.
“I have had to deal with expectation throughout my career. When I went to Australia I was young and playing a game I had known since I was five. I knew what I was going into, confident I would make it. Starting in union is a much harder challenge.
“I knew the pressure would be there and that there would be bad days and questions asked, but the important thing for me was to be a normal part of the team, rather than the league guy, one of the lads. I have made some great friends and I do not get special treatment.
“As far as England goes, I would never say I do not think I am ready; I would always put my hand up. There is plenty of time prior to everything kicking off [at the World Cup] but that is all out of my control.
“I will crack on with what I am doing at Bath and let that take care of itself. If the chance came to represent my country, I would give my utmost.”
Ford feels that Burgess’s work-rate will boost his England cause. “It is phenomenal, 60 plays a game where 40 is high. That is what we saw in him when we brought him over from South Sydney. He is good when it comes to chaos attack and he is a leader. When the opposition are on top, he does not panic but stays tight and gives the right chat to the players.
“I will be seeing Stuart before next week’s announcement and he will give me the heads-up. I have always been certain that if Sam was doing well for Bath, he would be picked in the wider squad, regardless of where we were playing him, because of his leadership qualities and what he brings. Being able to play in two positions enhances his chances.”