Posted by Sydney Morning Herald on October 31, 2014
LEAGUE CONVERT: Bath rugby player Sam Burgess.
South Sydney Rabbitohs NRL grand final hero Sam Burgess has warned his potential England World Cup team-mates to beware of newly appointed Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, describing him as a "phenomenal" man capable of ending Australia's woes.
The world's most high-profile code hopper completed his switch from the NRL to rugby union on Thursday, unveiled at a packed press conference at Recreation Ground at his new club Bath.
It rounded out an illustrious month for the world's best rugby league player, which netted a Clive Churchill medal and a historic South Sydney premiership.
In stark contrast, the Wallabies have been embroiled in the controversy of the Kurtley Beale-Di Patston saga and Ewen McKenzie quitting as coach two weeks ago.
But Burgess believes Cheika can be the shining light in a dismal period for the ARU.
Burgess, who is good friends with Cheika's brother Paul, spoke to Cheika before making his switch to rugby and expects the newly led Wallabies to be a major force at next year's World Cup.
"I knew he was going to get the job straight away, he's a phenomenal bloke, his mindset, he's got a great attitude towards things and he'll do a cracking job," Burgess said.
"I know what he's about I know his standard and I know how driven he is as a guy, I know what he demands from his players.
"I knew his brother for four or five years so when Mike took over at the Waratahs I watched him quite close.
"Before I met him I liked his mannerisms, the way he dealt with the media. Once I met him and spoke to him I thought he's a great coach, I knew he was going to be successful."
Burgess, 25, met Cheika's brother almost five years ago through Sydney real-estate agent John McGrath, and maintained a strong relationship with the family during his time in the NRL.
Earlier this year Burgess used Cheika as a sounding board when deliberating over a potential rugby switch.
Should Burgess force his way into the England World Cup squad as expected, it would pit the two in direct opposition with Australia to play the hosts in the pool stages.
Burgess was reluctant to start plotting a path to the World Cup on his first day at Bath, declaring his only focus was making the first XV at his new club.
"Everyone is talking about England, but personally I just want to make Mike Ford's team here in Bath," Burgess said.
"It is going to be hard work and I have to earn the respect of teammates here, and that's what I am going to do with a smile on my face and hard work."
Burgess has already been trumpeted as potentially "the greatest player in the world" of rugby, despite being yet to play a game.
The hype has been dubbed "Burgessmania" in the English press and World Cup-winner Jason Robinson has publicly backed him while England coach Stuart Lancaster is monitoring Burgess' progress.
"The expectation, the pressure I guess is what you make of it. I've got no pressure really on myself, I'm just going to really enjoy it and try to make the most of it here," Burgess said.
The hulking rugby league forward and likely rugby union inside centre isn't expected to play until December after needing five metal plates in his face to repair the damage of a fractured cheekbone and eye socket in the first minute of the Rabbitohs' grand final triumph.
"The injury's coming on very well, it has improved enormously in the last few weeks," Burgess said.
"The surgeon said whenever I feel good [I will be ready]... just keep an eye on it with the medical team here in Bath."
He'll have every chance over the next month to take a close look of the Cheika-led Wallabies during their spring tour. If anything it'll aid his rugby education.
And while Burgess is very much a rookie in his new code, Cheika has also warned his Wallabies to beware the Englishman.
"Even though he comes from zero base, he is going to do really well over there," Cheika said earlier this week.
"If he is playing for England, by the time [the World Cup] comes we will have to fire the lads up and get stuck into him because he is pretty unbreakable really."
- Sydney Morning Herald
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