Sam Burgess has thrown his weight behind the proposed mid-season international between England and New Zealand in Denver, amid reluctance from some clubs, believing it will be a missed opportunity for the sport if it does not take place.
The South Sydney forward is desperate for the Test, planned for the the same weekend in June that Sydney will host the first standalone State of Origin match, to go ahead but it is yet to get the green light.
Sam Burgess in action for England during last year’s World Cup. Photo: AAP
Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett, who led England to the World Cup final against Australia in December before vacating the role, has agreed to release players for the United States exhibition but there are others who have had concerns about the travel required for players on a weekend off from the NRL, not wanting to lose any to injury.
Burgess argues that should not be a reason to prevent players representing their country and taking the sport to a new frontier.
“You [tell] a Queensland player you can’t play for Queensland this week, there would be uproar, right?” Burgess said.
“It’s just because ‘who’s making money out of the game?’ There is a lot of politics behind the scenes that we have to understand. As a player simply I want to play for England. I’m sure the Kiwi boys do. So let’s make it happen.
“I can understand the pushback in some ways, but then also I don’t understand it. We had a successful World Cup for a number of reasons. You saw Lebanon doing so well, Tonga and obviously England, no one really gave us a chance but we had a red-hot dig there.
“I know there are insurance factors, which I think is what clubs are worried about and that is totally understandable and acceptable. But let’s get things in place, get the right due diligence done so we can go ahead.”
Burgess said it would be an opportunity lost for the sport if the Test were to be called off, particularly with North America to host the 2025 World Cup.
“I think the only way we can grow the game internationally is to let these games go ahead,” he said.
“It’s fantastic for the game. We get to showcase an international game over in the US. I’ve been to Denver, it’s sport-mad there. If we can make any indent in America with the game, and they see how great our game is, who knows what the possibilities are? I certainly would be disappointed if the game doesn’t go ahead.”
Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan said last week his club would happily release players for the Test against New Zealand, imploring officials not to allow self-interest of clubs to curtail ambition. The Warriors have themselves broadened their horizons by last weekend playing a Super League game against Hull across the other side of the world in Wollongong and they will wind up their Australian visit by being Souths’ first pre-season trial opponents at ANZ Stadium on Saturday.
Burgess’s younger brother Thomas is also keen to get on the plane to Colorado this winter.
“It’s a good opportunity with Australia having a year off after the World Cup,” he said. “Everyone has got a week off that week in the NRL.”