Criticised: Cumbria's Stuart Lancaster, right, and Sam Burgess at the 2015 World Cup
Cumbria's ex-England boss Stuart Lancaster made an “almighty blunder” selecting Sam Burgess for the 2015 World Cup, according to the Rugby Football Union’s former director of professional rugby Rob Andrew.
Burgess became the scapegoat for England’s World Cup failure two years ago after he was fast-tracked into the squad after a switch from rugby league.
Lancaster, from Culgaith, near Penrith, has since said he wouldn’t have selected Burgess if he’d known he would return to rugby league within a few weeks of England’s World Cup exit.
Bath agreed a deal to release Burgess from the final two years of his three-year contract in November 2015 and he re-joined South Sydney Rabbitohs after one season in rugby union.
Failure to get out of the group in 2015 cost Lancaster his job and Andrew has pinpointed the problems.
In a section from his book, The Game of My Life: Battling for England in the Professional Era, Andrew wrote: “If there was a problem team-wise in the run-up to the 2015 World Cup, a selectorial Achilles’ heel, it was to be found in midfield.
“Try as he might, Stuart Lancaster could not settle on an optimum configuration. Which is where Sam Burgess came in, and where things went horribly wrong.
“I would not even begin to pin the blame for our embarrassing World Cup misfire on a single player, but the kerfuffle around the introduction of Burgess was undeniably the tipping point.
“To this day, I simply do not understand the thinking behind the fast-tracking of a player from international rugby league to international rugby union when so many of the things that had made him wildly successful in the 13-man game were of questionable relevance in the 15-man version.
“It was an almighty risk to select him in a World Cup squad on such extremely limited and highly questionable evidence and it proved to be an almighty blunder.
“Why did Stuart do it? He alone knows the truth of the matter.”