Wednesday 7 December 2016

Gordon D'Arcy slams Sam Burgess selection as England critics grow louder

Published 30/09/2015 | 15:15

Sam Burgess was at the centre of some scathing criticism from former Ireland international Gordon D'Arcy
Sam Burgess was at the centre of some scathing criticism from former Ireland international Gordon D'Arcy

England's build up to their do-or-die World Cup clash with Australia has been stung by the most savage criticism yet after former Ireland centre Gordon D'Arcy delivered a brutal assessment of Sam Burgess.

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The fall-out from Saturday's 28-25 defeat by Wales saw the hosts branded "amateurs" by Sir Clive Woodward while Will Carling accused Stuart Lancaster of creating a "classroom-orientated environment" in which the players were treated as "schoolboys".

Now D'Arcy, a veteran of 82 caps and one half of a celebrated Ireland midfield axis with Brian O'Driscoll, has added his voice to the chorus by claiming Burgess' "naivety embarrassed those around him".

Burgess, who switched codes from rugby league last October, was a surprise pick at inside centre and while England's management have declared the selection a success, D'Arcy took the opposite view following detailed analysis of his performance.

"Burgess lacks the sense of timing, in attack and defence, required to be effective at international level," D'Arcy wrote in a column for the Irish Times.

"His naivety embarrassed those around him and severely damaged England's chances of reaching the quarter-finals. He had no idea what was happening around him.

"All Burgess did was run straight in search of collisions with (Wales centre) Jamie Roberts. who obliged but really conned him most of the time.

"Sam is a phenomenal athlete and clearly a fast learner. The damning question for Lancaster's England is: why were these learning curves taking place in the pool of death's must-win game?"

Burgess will drop to the bench for Saturday's clash with Australia - a match England have to claim if they are to reach the knockout stage of their own World Cup - providing Jonathan Joseph evades any late setback in his recovery from a pectoral muscle injury.

Owen Farrell is set to continue at fly-half, Brad Barritt will move to inside centre and Joseph will be reinstated in the number 13 jersey with Burgess likely to reprise his role as a final-quarter impact replacement.

Among the moments of the calamitous defeat by Wales scrutinised by D'Arcy is the defensive mix-up that cleared a path through the midfield for Scott Williams shortly before half-time.

The Welsh were unable to turn the break into a try, but D'Arcy notes: "In those defence-shredding seconds, the English coaches must have realised just how wrong they got their selection."

D'Arcy, a Test player for 16 years who was capped once by the British and Irish Lions, believes a way must be found for Steffon Armitage to join the squad, questions why Luther Burrell was not among the final 31 and insists Henry Slade should have a bigger role.

"Burrell had proved he can do what they hoped Burgess would do. The selection errors are glaring now," he said.

D'Arcy also criticised England's management following Chris Robshaw's decision to send a late penalty into touch instead of opting for a shot at goal that would have secured a draw if successful, claiming: "Warren Gatland, Joe Schmidt or Steve Hansen would have sent in a clear command that would have been obeyed. Kick your points."

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