League convert Sam Burgess made his highly anticipated Rugby Union debut in last nights 25-6 Bath win over Harlequins at the Rec. It was a short cameo, playing at centre, but showed glimpses of what he could be capable of with ball in hand.
Just seven weeks ago he was playing rugby league, winning the NRL Grand Final after breaking his cheekbone in the first minute. Now he’s a rugby union player, and one that has the whole of England, and indeed fans around the world, watching on closely.
His debut came in quite bizarre circumstances, as Harlequins were down to just 12 players after referee Wayne Barnes brandished three yellow cards. It was also raining so the conditions weren’t ideal, but post match he had a smile ear to ear, seemingly loving every minute of it.
“I’ve been mixing it up in training but I think I’ll stay at centre for now, certainly over the next few games,” said the 25-year-old when asked about what position he’ll likely play in.
“But we’ve got a lot of time. It’s certainly not an overnight transition and the worst thing we could do is rush it. It was always going to be hard but I’ve really enjoyed it and everyone’s been open to teaching me things.
“The game’s tough to learn and I was sat on the bench a little bit nervous. I haven’t felt that for a while but I enjoyed the feeling and the adrenalin and once you get on the field you just enjoy the game,” said the former league star who was awarded the Clive Churchill Medal a few weeks back.
He came on in the midfield last night, but Bath coach Mike Ford wants to try him in the forwards.
“The two carries he had were very, very good. He needs to get out there and play and when the pressure’s on that will accelerate his learning,” Ford said.
“There’s a plan there and Sam’s first few games are going to come at 12, but when it’s dry we’re going to have a look at him in the back row as well. Personally, I think that will suit Sam personally more.
“It’s a gut feeling of mine as he’s a guy who carries and tackles a lot and I don’t want to stick him out in the centre to do nothing. That’s not his skill set. Can we get him over the gain line with six, seven or eight on his back? Of course we can and the next month or so we’ll know where he is.
“My vision is for Sam to be a barnstorming back row and we’ll see how it unfolds, it’ll be a good journey,” Ford, whose son George starts for England at flyhalf today, added.
It’s been debated before, but after seeing a bit of him in action and hearing what both he and coach Ford have to say, where do you think Burgess would be best suited?