Sam Burgess will train with the senior England squad ahead of next week’s Six Nations opener away to Wales, coach Stuart Lancaster said Saturday.
However, Lancaster stressed that this did not mean a Test debut in rugby union was imminent for the former rugby league star, who returned home after helping the South Sydney Rabbitohs win Australia’s National Rugby League Championship with the aim of forcing his way into 2015 hosts England’s World Cup squad.
Just eight games into his career with Premiership side Bath, Burgess, playing at centre, struggled on his union representative debut as the second-string England Saxons beat the Ireland Wolfhounds 18-9 in Cork on Friday.
Nevertheless, England believe Burgess could yet have plenty to offer and he will train with the senior squad for a couple of days before they open the Six Nations against Wales at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Friday.
“Sam will just come into camp for two days to further his rugby experience before returning to Bath on Monday evening to get more game time over the next few weeks,” England coach Lancaster said Saturday.
“He’s still learning the game and this is an opportunity to help his development.”
Meanwhile England, beset by a raft of injuries, added Exeter fly-half Henry Slade, who impressed against the Wolfhounds, to their squad on Saturday as cover for Burgess’s Bath midfield colleague Kyle Eastmond, who has a shoulder problem.
Up front, there are increasing doubts as to whether tighthead prop David Wilson, struggling with a neck nerve complaint, will be fit in time to face Wales.
Henry Thomas, Wilson’s Bath team-mate, has been drafted in as front row cover.
“We are hoping that David’s injury will settle down but we need to consider our options at tight head over the next few days and Henry’s form deserves consideration,” Lancaster said.