Burgess targets Irish to relaunch Wallaby career
JUNE 14, 2008 and Luke Burgess is having an interesting introduction to international rugby.
Understandably nervous, the Wallaby scrum-half has nonetheless done well on his debut despite coming in for close attention from the Irish back row.
Denis Leamy is having a big game in the Irish pack, scoring a first-half try from a well-executed line-out maul and playing a big role in the visitors' superb second-half score from Brian O'Driscoll, which brought the score back to 18-12 to Australia with 20 minutes to go.
As the Irish push for a winning score, Burgess finds himself at the back of a ruck, preparing to deliver the ball to out-half Matt Giteau when he feels an Irish hand tapping him on the head.
"You're mine No 9," says Leamy, with a grin. "You're mine."
Despite the best efforts of Leamy and the Irish pack, the Aussies hold out and Burgess has a first cap to savour. In a way, it was fitting that it had come against Ireland for Burgess is from Irish stock or, to be more accurate, discarded Irish stock.
"Oh, this has raised its ugly head again has it?" asked Burgess with a smile when his roots were brought up yesterday.
"Yeah, I'm connected to a convict who was sent out here for stealing guns. His name was John Moran. It's a long, long time ago, I've absolutely no idea when."
Burgess is relishing the prospect of facing the Irish again because his career has not taken off the way it was expected to after that impressive opening performance two years ago. He was acknowledged as the first-choice No 9 through the rest of 2008 and 2009 up until the back end of the Tri Nations when another scrum-half wonder-boy emerged in the shape of Will Genia.
It was especially frustrating for Burgess, who turns 27 in August, given that he felt he had already served his time as understudy, spending four years behind Wallaby legend George Gregan at the Brumbies until he switched to the Waratahs in 2007.
Now there is Genia to contend with -- hailed as a genius after a stunning impact in the second half of 2009 -- and it is only because of injury to the Queensland Reds man that Burgess gets his start on Saturday -- in spite of a superb display in the first Test against England the weekend before last.
"You just take that approach that you're not here for long, and it does go by fast," Burgess reflected yesterday. "I think that approach makes you live in the moment and makes you enjoy yourself and makes you make the most of every moment.
"So I think that's what I want to try and do with the rest of my career, because I'm 26 now and it's coming to the end. I'm probably halfway through, and making the most of your time is not worrying very much about the future, it's really making sure you just live for today.
"I had to take a step back and look at what I'm doing (after being dropped). I'm playing rugby for Australia and I can't take that for granted because it will be over before I can blink. Every day should be magic. If I have that approach, then my career will be where I want it to be."
Once again, Ireland represent a springboard for Burgess' Wallaby career and he believes he has learned a lot about himself in the intervening two years.
"I've learned a lot. It's a fantastic opportunity to be here. But it's about the Wallabies winning. That's your focus every week, to work as hard as you possible can, to perform and improve. Hopefully, I've improved, just being confident, being part of the group, and I guess I'm always working on my kicking and passing again is something you've got to do every day.
"Getting comfortable running the ball is certainly something I've been trying to focus on. It's been a wonderful experience."
Meanwhile, Stephen Jones remains a doubt for Wales' match against New Zealand in Hamilton on Saturday. A scan on the thumb he injured during last weekend's 42-9 defeat to the All Blacks revealed no broken bones, but the 32-year-old has soft tissue damage which could yet see him join Andrew Bishop on the sidelines.