It is the great potential of Sam Burgess as a Rugby Union player that means that this opportunity to trial him against France at inside centre could not have been discarded by Stuart Lancaster. There is no question that without Manu Tuilagi's presence England are missing a spot of physicality out the back. In recent weeks Stuart has made no secret about his desire to achieve a back line balance - balance that includes ball players, carriers and finishers. In Jonny May, Anthony Watson and Jack Nowell you have the finishers, without question Jonathan Joseph is the ultimate ball player and then where does the hard nose ball carrying come from?
For sure Luther Burrell and Brad Barritt can both play that part and they do so well, we have seen this for Northampton Saints, Saracens and England on many occasions. The question is can Burgess? Speaking to those that know Sam well and from my experiences meeting him he has an aura about him and a presence that invites you to trust him. The feeling from speaking to him is that if he says he can deliver, he will and the fact is that he has the potential to bring a lot to the England party. At this point however this is only potential and that is why Saturday afternoon is, by far, the sternest test of Burgess' short union career to date.
By the book inside centres tend to be more physical than their ten, they run the hard lines, are a rock defensively and must have the ability to take the ball into contact and offload. On paper Burgess should find all of the above child's play, for many made up the bread and butter of league and let's not forget his pedigree in that sport. The question is has Burgess had time to develop his union instincts enough to be able to excel at International level? Test rugby is a different kettle of fish, you are facing the best in the world and as an individual you do not have time to think. In the last run out at 12 for England Burgess looked to be thinking too much, it cause ill timed runs and an over eagerness, at Twickenham on Saturday night there can be none of that. Instead we have to see the fruits of 6 weeks of labour in camp and the lessons that he has learned from having the best attacking threats in England running at him in training and in 15 on 15 matches. Burgess has to trust in his knowledge and showcase to us all that he can read the game like the best of them and play an instrumental role in International proceedings.
With this I'm not saying that Burgess is the finished article, or right now England's top inside centre in the country, however the fact remains that if Stuart Lancaster does not use this match to provide this opportunity there will always be a lingering 'what if'. Should Burgess excel, and by all accounts I hope that he does, it will provide Lancaster with ample food for thought. In the same vain should Burgess have a 'solid' game and a game in which he delivers on the fundamentals but doesn't do anything over and above then it will give Lancaster even more to think about. The only thing that we are certain about is that on Saturday evening, the pressure is on; it is time to face the union music for Slammin Sam and see what he delivers on the Twickenham turf.