Burgess: I’d have been worth weight, like Ardie

The Rugby Paper - - News, World Sevens Series - ■ By NICK VERDIER

PHIL Burgess is proud to be a Sevens player but he does re­gret he was never given the chance to show­case his tal­ent at the high­est level like Ardie Savea in New Zealand.

Stand­ing at 6ft and weigh­ing 14st 7lb, Burgess was a mo­bile out-and-out open­side lead­ing the Cor­nish Pi­rates to the Cham­pi­onship fi­nal in 2013 and he looked set for a Premier­ship move.

Ex­eter and Lon­don Ir­ish got in touch but, as the then Ex­iles boss Brian Smith pointed out, gain­ing weight was a must for Burgess.

Re­luc­tant to do so, Burgess joined Eng­land Sevens while Savea took Su­per Rugby by storm with the Hur­ri­canes on his way to be­com­ing an All Black.

“I’m quite small for a for­ward but it suits the way I play the game,” Burgess told The Rugby Pa­per. “When I went to Ex­eter and Ir­ish for chats, the first com­ment was, ‘oh, you’re not as big as I thought you’d be’.

“I’d have had to change the way I ap­proached the game if I’d put on weight. That’s not some­thing I was pre­pared to do so I just had to take it on the chin and look else­where.

“I really en­joy what I’m do­ing now and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’m a much bet­ter player now be­cause all my core skills have im­proved mas­sively.

“When I went to Wellington with Eng­land Sevens I vis­ited the Hur­ri­canes a cou­ple of times to see my old Pi­rates coach, Chris Stir­ling, who’s per­for­mance di­rec­tor there and I love what they’ve done with Ardie Savea at No.7.

“We’re quite sim­i­lar in the way we play but they haven’t changed him and that’s what I wanted in 15s.

“They let him be his own player rather than shape him into a player he’s not just be­cause he plays in a cer­tain po­si­tion. And now he is on the brink of tak­ing on the Lions with the All Blacks.”

Us­ing his break­down skills to great use from hooker in Sevens, Burgess has been in­stru­men­tal in Eng­land’s suc­cess as they won the Cape Town and Van­cou­ver tour­na­ments.

With two legs left in Paris and at Twick­en­ham, they look set to fin­ish on the podium of the over­all World Se­ries for the first time since 2012.

Burgess added: “We had the same squad go­ing into each of the first six tour­na­ments and that’s why we were suc­cess­ful.

“We had to deal with in­juries in Hong Kong and Sin­ga­pore and bring some young­sters in but they’ve done bril­liantly and even if we maybe didn’t play that well, we pulled to­gether to get bronze in Sin­ga­pore.

“That just shows the great work Si­mon Amor and his staff have done since he took over in 2013. They’ve in­vested a lot in the academy and in­creased the depth of the squad. We now have 25 play­ers to pick form rather than 14 or 15 like it was in the past.

“It’ll be amaz­ing to play France in their home tour­na­ment next week but our per­for­mances will be our sole fo­cus.

“Sevens is such a fickle game. The aim is to re­duce what you leave to chance with con­stant per­for­mance and that shows in the re­sults.

“Th­ese last two tour­na­ments are worth as much as the first two so we’ll do our best and hope for the best outcome pos­si­ble.”

PIC­TURE: Getty Images

Hand off: Phil Burgess takes on Samoa for Eng­land in Hong Kong this sea­son

Mo­bile: All Black Ardie Savea takes on Aus­tralia

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