Wednesday 18 September 2019

'The biggest selection cock-up I've ever seen’ - Stuart Barnes slams Sam Burgess' selection for Wales clash

Sam Burgess of England in action against Gareth Davies of Wales
Reuters / Andrew Winning
Sam Burgess of England in action against Gareth Davies of Wales Reuters / Andrew Winning Livepic

Tom Rooney

As Sam Burgess announced his premature, if reasonably expected return to Rugby League yesterday, Stuart Barnes decided to re-open some of England’s World Cup wounds.

Every single autopsy conducted in a bid establish why England became the first host nation in World Cup history to fail to qualify from their pool, has invariably featured Sam Burgess with differing degrees of frequency.

Somehow, a man who was barely in the Union code a wet minute has become the poster child for four years of alleged careful planning unravelling on the biggest stage of all.

After a lack lustre victory over Fiji in their Pool A opener, England coach Stuart Lancaster elected to replace George Ford with Owen Farrell at out-half for their clash with Wales and, to great surprise, draft in Burgess at first centre, although he had played a considerable amount of his club rugby with Bath as a flanker.

The move backfired. For Sky pundit Barnes, who covered the tournament with TV3, the decision beggared belief.

"The responsibility has to lie with the people who actually backed him when he wasn't ready,” he told Sky Sports News HQ

"Bath take some responsibility but England take the lion's share. The biggest thing an international manager of any sports team has to do is to select well.

"If you select badly, then it doesn't matter how well organised you are or what you're coaching structure is, you won't be able to maximise your abilities.

International Rugby Newsletter

Rugby insights and commentary from our renowned journalists like Neil Francis, Will Slattery, Alan Quinlan & Cian Tracey.

"This is what happened with England. Sam Burgess did not cost England the game against Wales.

"Fundamentally, the biggest selectorial cock-up I've seen in my lifetime."

Burgess has signed a three year deal with his former club the South Sydney Rabbitohs, who reputedly paid Bath £750k to have the 26-year-old released from his contract two years early.

Online Editors

The Left Wing: Ireland's fullback dilemma, World Cup bonding and the squad standby list

Also in Sport