England fail to help Burgess crack code
Murray charges past Ferrer to reach Paris final
LONDON: As if presiding over the first host nation to suffer a pool-phase exit at a World Cup was not bad enough, Sam Burgess’s return to rugby league after just a year in rugby union will further undermine England coach Stuart Lancaster.
It was always asking a lot of Burgess, heading back to the South Sydney Rabbitohs, barely 12 months after helping the club win the Australian NRL Grand Final, to become a fully fledged union international in such a short space of time.
And it became all the more difficult when, in the absence of a central contract, club side Bath and England saw his union future in two different positions.
Bath played him mainly as a flank forward, while England saw him as an inside centre-a key playmaking position in the backline. Because the two rugby codes are played with an oval-shaped ball, it is easy to think the only key difference between them is that there are 15 players in a union team and 13 in a league one.
Yet while a tackle in league sees play halted, in union it is the start of a contest for possession. Meanwhile the line-out, another important area for union forwards, simply does not exist in league.
Burgess, trying to master two of union’s most demanding positions and a complex rulebook, made just one start and two appearances off the bench PARIS: World number three Andy Murray reached his maiden Paris Masters final when he overpowered Spanish eighth seed David Ferrer 6-4 6-3 despite a few off lapses yesterday.
The British second seed lost his focus at times but eventually had too much for the 2012 Bercy champion as he set up a showdown with either world number one Novak Djokovic or French Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka. “I managed to shorten a lot of the points. There was some variety in there with the way the points finished, which was pleasing for me,” Murray told a news conference. during the World Cup. He certainly did not cost England a quarter-final place. In the key defeat by Wales, having done an admirable defensive job and been a useful decoy runner in build-up to a try, his side were leading when Burgess came off only for the Welsh to rally late on.
But his undeniable physical power and presence could not disguise his lack of ease in his England role, with veteran Ireland centre Gordon D’Arcy’s withering critique that Burgess “doesn’t know how to play inside centre” sadly proving all too accurate.
That Burgess’s inclusion in the World Cup squad came at the expense of experienced centre Luther Burrell, who up until the tournament had been one of the mainstays of Lancaster’s three years as England coach, all added to the sense of a needless gamble.
There was a hope in some quarters that Burgess might do for Lancaster what fleet-footed former rugby league star Jason Robinson did for Clive Woodward’s World Cup-winning England side of 2003.
Robinson, however, was a wing, a position in which there is the least difference between the two codes, and he had two years of international rugby union behind him when England won the World Cup.
“What happened really was he (Burgess) was
“I dictated a lot of the points and I finished a lot of points up at the net and was able to shorten enough points to not make it too tiring.” Murray made a dream start, breaking to love in the first game, but Ferrer was spurred into action and the Spaniard levelled for 3-3 when two Murray unforced errors gave him a break in the sixth game.
In a see-saw opening set, Ferrer set up four more break points in the eighth game but Murray saved them all and went on to steal his opponent’s serve as the Spaniard made a string of unforced errors. The Scot finished a superb asked to play either at flanker for his club or centre for England-two of the most difficult positions to play rugby, with a constant 80 minutes of decision-making,” former England union fly-half Stuart Barnes told Sky Sports.
“It’s not a mark of failure for Burgess not to have cracked it in under a year.” Barnes added: “What it does do is question England’s blind determination to force him in, when it was always going to be a race against time.”
For all that England assistant coach Andy Farrell, another cross-code convert, was in the firing line over Burgess’s rapid promotion, Lancaster-bidding to stay in post as England review a woeful World Cup campaign-will have to carry the can.
“It leaves Stuart Lancaster in a very tenuous position,” said Barnes.
“I don’t think he was the most convinced of the England coaches about the qualities of Sam Burgess for this year, but the fact is Stuart Lancaster had the final say and he selected him in the 31 (man squad).”
So long as union remains the higher profile international sport, more league players can be expected to switch codes-the traffic was all the other way when union was an amateur game.
But they must hope for more sympathetic treatment, and above all, more time than England gave Burgess or, indeed, Burgess gave himself. —AFP exchange at the net with a fine sliced lob to set up two set points and on the first one Ferrer netted a routine backhand.
In typically tenacious fashion Ferrer got straight back down to business and raced to a 3-1 lead in the second set. But double grand slam champion Murray found his range again, producing some improbable angles as he won five games in a row, wrapping up the victory on his first match point when Ferrer netted an attempted drop shot. Murray will be guaranteed finishing the year second in the ATP rankings for the first time if he wins the title. — Reuters
TOULON: Montpellier’s Oleg Ishchenko, right, tries to tackle Toulon’s (RCT) new recruit, Tom Taylor of New-Zealand, during the Top 14 final rugby match between Toulon and Montpellier, at the Mayol stadium, in Toulon, Southern France, yesterday. — AP