Departing code hopper Sam Burgess is still an inspiration for England’s Four Nations team according to coach Steve McNamara.
An emotional Sam Burgess has presented jerseys to England ahead of Saturday’s Four Nations rugby league opener against Samoa in Brisbane.
But England coach Steve McNamara believes Four Nations success will help ensure they hand a national jersey straight back to Burgess once he completes his rugby stint.
Burgess was the envy of every rugby league player when he became the first Englishman to claim the RLIF International Player of the Year award on Thursday at a Brisbane luncheon.
However, South Sydney’s drought-breaking premiership hero admitted he was jealous of his former teammates as he prepared to leave for a three-year stint with English rugby club Bath.
Burgess has kept the door open for a rugby league return following his code switch – and McNamara believes Four Nations success might just ensure it.
“Hopefully,” he said. “He came in and presented our shirts and gave a pretty emotional speech.
“We wished him all the best.
“Hopefully, he rips it up over there and returns very quickly to rugby league.”
And McNamara was not concerned by reports another Burgess could be rugby-bound.
The English Four Nations team awoke on Friday morning to speculation George Burgess could be lured to the 15-man-a-side code by English club Gloucester.
He still has another two years to run on his South Sydney contract.
However, brother Sam was also contracted until the end of the 2016 NRL season before Bath made a handsome payout to the Rabbitohs for his services.
“George is fully focused on the competition – I am not sure what is in that (report),” McNamara said.
“I half read it this morning and only half paid attention to it.
“It’s probably not something we want to deal with just now.”
High on McNamara’s radar is how his side will line up against a physical Samoa with a new captain, halves pairing and hooker since their last-gasp 2013 World Cup semi-final loss to New Zealand.
Canterbury prop James Graham takes up the captaincy from Sean O’Loughlin (quad) while Wigan No.7 Matty Smith will make his international debut at 27 alongside Dragons playmaker Gareth Widdop.
And in perhaps the biggest surprise, Canberra-bound Josh Hodgson will start at No.9 with reigning Man of Steel Daryl Clark on the bench.
“Just seeing them around the place, they have struck up a very good friendship and a great understanding on the field,” McNamara said of his halves pairing.
In all, England boast five NRL players in their 17 – a percentage McNamara, who is Sydney Roosters assistant coach, believes will give his side the edge in the southern hemisphere tournament.