Sam Burgess has said “individual egos” and “selfish players” were to blame for England’s painful 2015 World Cup campaign, as he hit back at his critics on social media.
Burgess was part of an England squad that became the first World Cup host nation in history to crash out of the tournament in the pool stage.
The rugby league star spent a one-year spell in rugby union after a brief change of codes, joining Premiership club Bath and winning five union caps for England in 2015, including three at the World Cup.
He made 21 appearances for Bath, but decided to call it quits after one season and returned to rugby league following the World Cup, signing a lucrative deal with South Sydney Rabbitohs.
But the World Cup did more than spell the end of Burgess’ union career.
Head coach Stuart Lancaster and defence specialist Andy Farrell, who will succeed Joe Schmidt as Ireland boss after next year’s World Cup, were among those who departed Twickenham in the aftermath of events three years ago.
Lancaster has gone on to mastermind Leinster’s push to the summit of European rugby, while Farrell has received widespread acclaim for his work with Ireland and the British and Irish Lions.
In a series of Twitter posts on Tuesday, Burgess has hit out following criticism on social media of his role in that tournament.
Burgess tweeted: “I seem to be getting a few tweets regarding the Rugby WC in 2015… still.
“If people actually rewatched the games I participated in, you will see I added to the team.
“What cost us an early exit was individual egos and selfish players not following our leader, which essentially cost the coach and other great men their jobs.
“Tournaments are not won by the coaching staff or one player, it takes a commitment from the full group. I guarantee you this.
“I was committed but others had their own agendas. I have fond memories of my time in RU and some great friends.
“One day I will tell my side of the story, but for now I love watching England and cannot wait to see them as they prepare for the 2019 World Cup in Japan.”
Tom Makinson scored a sensational hat-trick of tries to help England wrap up the Test series with New Zealand with a game to spare.
The St Helens winger completed a remarkable introduction to the international scene with a man-of-the-match display in England’s hugely-impressive 20-14 victory.
Wayne Bennett’s men twice came from behind to finally see off the plucky Kiwis, whose captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak threatened to win the game on his own.
Among a host of heroes was James Graham, an Everton fan leading England out at Anfield, but special mention goes to rookie prop Luke Thompson, who looks a natural at this level, while centre Jake Connor made it four tries in as many appearances.
Connor managed just one goal from his four attempts as England outscored their visitors by four tries to two.
England drew first blood after Kiwi prop Jesse Bromwich was punished for a late tackle on Sam Tomkins and Connor kicked the penalty to give the hosts a 2-0 lead.
However, the tourists struck back just three minutes later when full-back and captain Watene-Zelezniak sliced between Tomkins and Oliver Gildart for the game’s first try and Shaun Johnson’s conversion made it 6-2.
With Johnson pulling the strings, the Kiwis twice went close again through right winger Jordan Rapana but Makinson was rock solid in defence.
Makinson also came to England’s rescue by getting his body underneath second rower Kevin Proctor as the Kiwis pummelled their line.
England spent most of the first half defending and, in rare breaks, centre Gildart, their match-winner in the first Test, twice spilled the ball.
But the home side looked sharper when hooker Daryl Clark came off the bench and, after twice opting to run penalties from in front of the posts, their enterprise paid off two minutes before half-time when a cut-out pass from stand-off George Williams got Makinson over at the corner.
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Connor was unable to add the goal, which left the scores locked at 6-6, and New Zealand went back in front just four minutes into the second half with an exceptional try.
Watene-Zelezniak was put through a gap on halfway by Kodi Nikorima’s short pass and he toyed with the England defenders before sending winger Ken Maumalo over at the corner.
Johnson landed the touchline conversion and added a penalty five minutes later to extend the lead to 14-6.
Tempers became frayed once more, fuelled by a late hit by substitute James Fisher-Harris on Tomkins, which seemed to galvanise both England and the 25,000 crowd.
Deft passes from full-back Jonny Lomax and Connor got Makinson over for his second try in the 56th minute and Tom Burgess bundled his way over the line three minutes later only to be held up in a three-man tackle.
The momentum was all with England by then and they drew level after 63 minutes when Canberra team-mates Josh Hodgson and Elliott Whitehead combined neatly to get Connor over for the third try.
Connor this time struck an upright with the difficult conversion attempt, but England had a chance to clinch victory when Makinson broke clear only to ruin the final pass to Lomax.
Makinson quickly made amends, though, stepping inside and wrong-footing the back-pedalling Kiwi defence to complete his hat-trick and Tomkins rounded off the scoring with the conversion.
England have suffered a major blow ahead of the autumn internationals with the withdrawal of talismanic forward Sam Burgess.
The former Bradford favourite, named this week alongside his twin brothers Tom and George in Wayne Bennett’s 24-man squad, picked up shoulder and wrist injuries playing for South Sydney in the latter stages of the NRL season and says he cannot delay surgery.
“I’m gutted that I have to withdraw because I love playing for my country and it is a great honour,” Burgess said.
“The reality of the situation is that it’s imperative that I get these surgeries done and, with a view to the next three or four years, I need to get them done now.
“I’ll be watching on from Australia and cheering on England against France and New Zealand, and I’m sure the team will do England proud.”
Burgess, who recently signed a four-year contract extension with the Rabbitohs, captained England in the 2017 World Cup final in December in the absence of Sean O’Loughlin and won his 23rd cap in helping them beat the Kiwis 36-18 in Denver in June.
England say they will name a replacement over the weekend, allowing Bennett to assess contenders in the Super League semi-finals.
St Helens forward Matty Lees and the Warrington trio of Harvey Livett, Jack Hughes and Joe Philbin will all be hoping they caught the coach’s eye in Thursday’s game and there will be other candidates on show at Wigan on Friday.
Castleford’s Oliver Holmes is in the England Knights squad for the tour to Papua New Guinea, while team-mate Mike McMeeken was a member of Bennett’s World Cup squad.
England play France at Leigh Sports Village on Wednesday, October 17, in their first match on home soil since 2016 and take on the Kiwis at Hull’s KCOM Stadium on October 27, at Anfield on November 4 and at Elland Road on November 11.
England head coach Wayne Bennett has named uncapped pair Jake Connor and Tommy Makinson in his team to face New Zealand in the United States, but there is no place for Luke Thompson.
England will take on the Kiwis in a historic one-off Test in Denver, Colorado, on June 23.
With Wigan half-back George Williams already ruled out with a knee injury, St Helens prop Thompson is the only fit member of Bennett’s 19-man squad to miss out.
The side to face the Kiwis at the Mile High Stadium includes 12 players who were part of the team beaten by Australia in the World Cup final in December.
On uncapped pair Connor and Makinson, Bennett said: “Their form is good in the UK and that’s half the battle – playing well at the right time of the year, and they are playing well.
“It’ll be a different contest to what they’re used to but they look like they’re well equipped to handle it.”
Scott Taylor, who featured only once at the World Cup, has been preferred ahead of Thompson after receiving a late call-up following the withdrawal of George Burgess.
“Scott’s been in the squad since I’ve been coach but he hasn’t played enough Test matches so he’s going to get an opportunity to show us what he can do this week,” said Bennett.
Bennett is excited to help showcase rugby league in Colorado.
“It’s important and the players think it’s important,” he said. “We wouldn’t have come otherwise and fought as hard as we did to get it on; certainly the clubs weren’t keen about it, most of the clubs weren’t.
“We believe it’s important and we’re all pleased to be here. There is going to be a World Cup here in 2025 so it’s important that we start to play a lot more football over here so the Americans understand what rugby league is and how it’s played.”
England’s 17-squad to face New Zealand: John Bateman, Sam Burgess, Thomas Burgess, Jake Connor, James Graham, Ryan Hall, Chris Hill, Jonny Lomax, Tommy Makinson, Jermaine McGillvary, Sean O’Loughlin (captain), Mark Percival, Stefan Ratchford, James Roby, Scott Taylor, Elliott Whitehead, Gareth Widdop.
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