Sunday 15 September 2019

‘I don’t think he was given enough time’-Brian O’Driscoll and George North weigh in on Sam Burgess saga

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

Tom Rooney

Speaking on BT Sports Rugby Tonight, former Lions teammates Brian O’Driscoll and George North gave their thoughts on Sam Burgess’ return to rugby league following just one year in the union code.

Four days after announcing that he had re-signed for the South Sydney Rabbitohs, the club he initially left to try his hand at the 15 man game with Bath and England, Sam Burgess remains the source of much debate.

Opinions have varied, but since his disastrous outing at first centre during England’s World Cup loss to Wales, the 26-year-old’s position in the rugby universe and, indeed, on the its pitch, has been a central talking point in the autopsy of the hosts’ calamitous campaign.

It could hardly have helped matters that Stuart Lancaster and Bath coach Mike Ford had very differing views as to where Burgess would flourish most in his nascent union career.

The former obviously hoped Burgess would emulate fellow convert Sonny Bill Williams in midfield, while the latter saw him as marauding blind-side flanker.

For Northampton’s Welsh winger George North, who crossed paths with Burgess in the Guinness Premiership, the former Bradford Bull wasn’t given ample opportunity to assimilate to either role.

“To change code like that is a massive, massive challenge.  I personally don’t think he was given enough time to really learn his trade; when you’re playing six or 12, it’s a massively different role. To lean that you have to be given time and I don’t think he was given enough time,” he said.

According to O’Driscoll, Mike Ford was correct in deploying Burgess in the back-row and, that his World Cup selection was premature. While going back to the Rabbitohs, where his three brothers are also contracted, is likely the most ideal scenario at this point.

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“He’s was definitely given enough opportunity,” he said.  “He was thrown in the deep end, I don’t know if he was able to swim well enough to warrant a World Cup place, retrospectively looking at that World Cup.

“Having said that, I think six was his position. He was going to have to invest a year, year and a half to become a world class six, which I thought he was capable of doing.

“But, instead he’s gone back into a role he’s completely comfortable with and one that seems absolutely seamless to him, and he gets to hang out with his family and his mam, and who doesn’t like that?”

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