England 25 Wales 28 - RWC 2015: You can’t blame Sam Burgess if the game is rubbish

The inclusion of the former Rugby League player has been the subject of much debate

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The Independent Online

It isn’t Sam Burgess that’s out of step, it’s the game of rugby union.

The former rugby league international has had mixed reviews, to say the least, for his contribution to England’s unsuccessful effort against Wales. It raises the question of whether, when things go pear-shaped, it can still be the fault of the league convert, even if he’s no longer on the field.

True, there were times when he looked lost, but his problem was not that he couldn’t cope with what he was being asked to do, but that he wasn’t being asked to do enough.

He fumbled a ball at the start, made a couple of quality tackles, had a couple of short runs and put in a non-kicker’s kick.

Compare that with his titanic performances in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup defeat by New Zealand, or his inspiring effort for South Sydney in last year’s NRL Grand Final. Or rather don’t, because there is no comparison.

In union, he simply doesn’t have enough to do. He’s too polite to say so, but he must be bored to death.

But then so were those who watched the game from afar, in the hope of some rugby breaking out. 

The first half was the worst I’ve seen for a very long time – but then I’ve only been watching rugby league.

The second half was better, but only to the extent that any sport becomes engaging when the outcome is uncertain and there is an upset on the cards.

 

The ball movement became amusingly random at times, but at no stage did the reality threaten to live up to the hype.

The maths says it, really: 53 points, two tries. It’s a damning equation and you can field Sam Burgess, Guy Burgess and Anthony Burgess and not change that.

No doubt there were plenty of people who enjoyed it. The Rugby Union World Cup can certainly generate a sense of occasion and, by gad, they have some formidable  goal-kickers.

 

But, since I put a few of these thoughts on Twitter, I have been deluged with people agreeing with me.

That is not something with which I am all that well acquainted, but it shows that I’m not the only one who can see that the emperor has no clothes.

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