As Sam Burgess prepares to make his first Rugby World Cup start, RUCK looks at four reasons the former Rugby League star will help light up the already beaming competition.
1. HIS PASSION
In a competition which has seen national passion in bucketloads, arguably most apparent in Japan’s remarkable win over South Africa which saw even neutral fans reduced to tears of joy, England’s performance in their 35-11 opening-night win over Fiji was seen as ‘flat’ by many.
But Burgess, set for his first significant test in and England shirt, will bring bundles of the stuff, sure to keep fans on the edge of their seats. His leadership skills aren’t in short supply either and could provide a crucial element of Stuart Lancaster’s side as the hosts look to take down Wales on Saturday.
2. HIS ABILITY
There has been much debate about Burgess’ aptitude as a Rugby Union player, but there is little denying his immense stature as a raw athlete.
Despite playing the game for under a year, his performances for club and country have always provided a talking point, and those points have become increasingly positive in recent months.
From flattening opponents with ferocious defence, to dragging his way through tackles on the flanks, the 26-year-old is almost guaranteed to catch the eye and could provide that spark England have been looking for.
3. HIS STORY
No matter what his campaign brings performance-wise, his life story is a truly remarkable one and can only capture the imagination of the watching public worldwide.
Brought up in the humble West Yorkshire town of Dewsbury, Burgess quickly rose to stardom in Rugby League on a tragic backdrop which saw the then teenager become his Motor Neurone-suffering father’s carer.
Despite the death of his father, Burgess soon became a mainstay of the international set up before switching to Australia, where he went out in a blaze of glory; leading his South Sydney side to their first league title for 43 years with a stunning Man of the Match performance despite suffering a severely fractured cheekbone just seconds into the game.
4. HIS COMMERCIAL ATTRACTION
Perhaps not a factor at the forefront of fans’ minds, but a crucial factor in the potential growth of Rugby Union nonetheless.
Burgess can and will attract a crowd wherever he goes, while viewing figures for Saturday night’s massive clash with the Welsh, alongside lucrative sponsorship opportunities, are set to go through the roof as Rugby League fans tune in to see the progress of one of their favourite sons.
After a scintillating start to the competition, now could well be an ideal time to capitalise on burgeoning interest in the sport – an entertaining performance from ‘Slammin’ Sam’ and his teammates, one which engages even the most skeptical member of the RL public, could provide a major stepping stone in taking the sport to the next level in this country.