Burgess Ready to Lead England on his Return
Sam Burgess will captain England for the first time on Saturday local time (12:30am Sunday AEDST) as England begin their Four Nations campaign against New Zealand in Huddersfield.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs forward was suspended for last Saturday’s 40-6 win over France in Avignon as head coach Wayne Bennett got his tenure off to a winning start.
James Graham, who skippered the Wall of White against France, has recovered from a head knock in time to face the Kiwis.
Castleford’s Luke Gale and St Helens full-back Jonny Lomax are named in the 19-man squad after making their international debuts last Saturday.
In Sean O’Loughlin’s absence from the series through injury, Burgess will captain England and says it will be a proud moment to lead his country out for the first time.
“To be given the captaincy is a real honour and is a role I will give everything to,” said Burgess.
“I grew up playing for Dewsbury Moor where there is an honours board with all the players who have gone on to play for Super League clubs.
“I always dreamed about being put on the board never mind captaining my country. You don’t think it’s ever going to happen and I’ll be over the moon on Saturday.
“I’ll sing the national anthem loud and proud with my teammates and then we’ll get stuck in.”
Burgess last featured for England in their dramatic 20-18 World Cup semi-final defeat to New Zealand at Wembley Stadium in 2013 before crossing codes for a spell in rugby union.
The Kiwis have since lifted the Four Nations in 2014 as well as becoming the number one ranked international side.
New Zealand have lost four of their last five internationals however including a 2-1 series defeat to England last autumn.
Head coach David Kidwell has recalled key players Shaun Johnson, Thomas Leuluai, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and this season’s Dally M winner Jason Taumalolo to the side that toured England last year.
With a tough test to follow against Australia at the London Stadium on 13 November, Burgess claims it is crucial England put in a strong performance and pick up the win on Saturday.
“I think we all know the importance of the game at the weekend,” he added.
“It’s test match rugby and every game should be do-or-die and we’re preparing now on a daily basis to give our best performance on Saturday afternoon.
“They’ve got some senior players back in the squad and have got one of the strongest Kiwis sides I’ve seen in recent years so it’ll really test us.
“It’ll be a great challenge but we’re going out there for the win and we have to prepare the best we can this week to do that.”
The game has sold-out at the 24,500 capacity John Smith’s Stadium and Kiwis hooker Issac Luke, who has toured England four times previously, claims that playing in front of English supporters is always a great experience.
“I’ve come over here a few times before and I’ve always enjoyed playing in front of the English crowds,” said the 29-year-old.
“They’re really passionate about this sport and they really get into the game. I know it’s going to be vocal for them and they’re going to drown us out but I’m sure the boys will do their best.
“I remember playing England in the World Cup semi-final at Wembley and it had the intensity of a Grand Final game.
“Tests between England and the Kiwis are always big games and Saturday will be no different.
“We’re looking forward to playing this weekend and putting in a strong performance.”