Burgess can follow in my footsteps, says Robinson
ESPN Staff
December 16, 2014
Sam Burgess made his first start for Bath against Montpellier last week © Getty Images

Jason Robinson says Sam Burgess can follow in his path by making Stuart Lancaster's England squad for the World Cup and becoming a cross-code champion.

Robinson made a successful transition from rugby league to union for Bath in the newly professional 1996-97 season, before appearing in 51 Tests and two World Cup finals for England.

Burgess started his first game for Bath at inside centre last week, in what proved to be a comfortable European Champions Cup victory over Montpellier, with his coach Mike Ford calling for patience while he learns the game.

The clamour to push Burgess into Lancaster's set-up has grown after the displays by England's midfield in the autumn Tests, and Robinson feels the time is right.

"It makes sense to fast-track Burgess," Robinson told The Times. "When I came into the England squad I developed more quickly because I was around good players.

"He does not necessarily need to play in the Six Nations, but he needs to be in the training environment and then the very thing that made him one of the best players in rugby league will kick in - the hunger to be tested, the belief that if someone says he can't do something then he can.

"I learnt on the job. I got caught in the wrong position and was kicked to pieces. I knew very little about rugby union and he will be the same.

"What's changed, though, is the coaches have more experience of league players now and know how to shape them. I went to Bath and Brian Ashton put me at full back. I didn't have a clue. I'd never kicked a ball in my life. Even when I captained England I didn't know all the rules. I don't understand the interpretations now. Down at Bath, Burgess has Mike Ford, George Ford and Kyle Eastmond. They will know how to bring him along fast and how to protect him."

Asked about Burgess's World Cup prospects, Robinson - who scored in the 2003 final triumph - is confident he will make it, but only if he is played at centre.

"He will be involved," said Robinson. "He has to play centre because he has only a short space of time. He has no chance of learning the back row in time and, even if he did, who is he going to oust?

"I heard Austin Healey say he should play on the wing. No chance. If I was in the other side and saw Sam Burgess on the wing I'd be licking my lips because he's not fast enough, you'd skin him and you'd be taking him into your world. If he's at 12 then you're in his.

"It's the World Cup final and he's playing against Sonny Bill Williams, who knows he is going up against a player who can hit as hard if not harder than he can. When they line up Sam will look at him as if to say, 'I smashed you last time, so come down the 12 channel and you know what's coming.' It's a plus before you start. You begin to get them to adapt their game to you."

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