Rugby World Cup: Lancaster sticks his neck out for Burgess
England begin World Cup preparations against France after Australia sound a warning with win over New Zealand
England have announced the team to face France in their first World Cup warm-up match at Twickenham on Sunday, with rugby league convert Sam Burgess given the chance to make a case for himself at centre, despite playing as flanker for his club, Bath.
Burgess, who switched codes ten months ago, lines up alongside Henry Slade in the centre and The Times says they will be competing for the final berth in coach Stuart Lancaster's squad. Brad Barritt, Jonathan Joseph and Luther Burrell are likely to make the cut with Burgess, Slade and Billy Twelvetrees fighting it out for the remaining vacancy.
"Lancaster has stuck out his neck a considerable way to give Burgess an opportunity that his form since his conversion to union late last year has never justified," says the paper.
Danny Cipriani is also being asked to show his versatility and will be required to challenge Andy Goode at full-back, despite playing most of his rugby at fly half.
Forwards Kieran Brookes, Calum Clark and Luke Cowan-Dickie will also be hoping to make a late run for the final squad.
"There is a makeshift look to the line-up, with Stuart Lancaster, the England head coach, effectively using the match as final trial match before he settles on his 31-man squad," says the Daily Telegraph.
The match is the first of two against France, and Lancaster has selected a 'Possibles XV' claims the Times. Next week he will select a 'Probables XV'.
Lancaster's decision to name his team for the weekend so early raised eyebrows in some quarters, but it comes after Australia's defeat of New Zealand in the Rugby Championship raised the stakes for England in Pool A of the tournament, where they must face both the Wallabies and Wales, who looked out of sorts against Ireland at the weekend.
The manner of Australia's win over the All Blacks is hugely significant, says Owen Slot of The Times. "From a northern hemisphere point of view, the World Cup had just got a whole lot harder... because the headline news was that the Wallabies had found a scrum." They also dominated at the breakdown, which could also spell trouble for England in particular.
After last weekend's results, all eyes will be on the fixtures this weekend as anticipation begins to build ahead of next month's tournament.
"When New Zealand are beaten by an Australia side who will soon be sharing a pool with England, Ireland rise to second in the world rankings and Argentina upset South Africa in Durban it certainly adds a dash of intrigue to the waiting game being played by all concerned before the World Cup kicks off next month," says The Guardian.