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World Cup scouting report - Burgess

BBC Sport is embarking on a series of scouting missions to find out which of Super League's young guns should be on the plane to Australia for the World Cup.

Luke Burgess takes on the Hull FC defence
Can Luke Burgess make the same impact as younger brother Sam?

After casting our eye over Harlequins prop Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook last month, we decided to take a look at Leeds counterpart Luke Burgess.

He's already won over a lot of you, if the following views are anything to go by:

The next Leeds and international captain. If he gets enough game time this year, then he will tour with England this summer. Could be England's equivalent to Glenn Lazarus!
Paul Mack

The older of the brothers is starting show class comparable to Sam's. If he carries on, he could well be on the plane to Australia.
Austin

Strong and powerful. Can easily break down any Super League defence!
Ali Gray

Been good player so far this season and honestly think he is better than younger brother Sam!
Rossco

Now find out what our man thought when he went to see Luke in action against St Helens at Knowsley Road.

By George Riley

St Helens coach Daniel Anderson felt his side dominated Leeds last Friday, but a match-winning try from the latest Burgess to take Super League by storm settled the game.

Burgess is mobbed by his team-mates after his match-winning try against Saints
Burgess is mobbed by his team-mates after his match-winning try against St Helens

"There's something going on in the mould in that family," said Anderson, shaking his head, before trudging down the tunnel to contemplate a 14-10 defeat.

Luke Burgess - the oldest brother in "that family" - has had to be the epitome of professional patience.

The 21-year-old prop produced a powerful cameo off the bench to steal victory for Leeds, the latest in several impressive displays in Super League XIII.

But last October, while his teenage younger brother Sam, who plays for Bradford, was getting the headlines and flattening the likes of Roy Asotasi and Fuifui Moimoi for Great Britain, Luke was contemplating a pivotal season in his career.

A former Great Britain Students international, the 6ft 4in Burgess has had to bide his time behind a world-class front row at Headingley.

"Sam's one of the best young players we've seen in a number of years," Leeds captain Kevin Sinfield, who played alongside the younger Burgess for the Lions, told BBC Sport.

"Luke has probably been in his shadow a little bit and maybe a bit forgotten, but certainly not this year. He's been absolutely outstanding and there is no reason at all that he can't make as big an impact, if not bigger, than his brother."

In the kind of atrocious conditions that make a mockery of summer rugby, Luke sat unused for 50 minutes as Leeds fell 10-8 adrift of a Saints side with their tails up.

Kylie Leuluai and Jamie Peacock had started up front for the Rhinos but, led by another outstanding young prop in the flame-haired James Graham, Saints were winning the arm-wrestle.

He looks like he's already played 100 Super League games

Kevin Sinfield on Luke Burgess

Cue Burgess.

Powering off the bench like a salivating lion off the leash at feeding time, his first two drives both took three St Helens defenders back 10 metres.

After 54 minutes, with his first piece of possession in the final third, a jink to the line almost brought Burgess a try.

But on the hour came the pivotal moment.

An uncharacteristic Paul Wellens fumble in front of his own posts gave Leeds the position and Burgess produced an unstoppable close-range drive, slamming the ball over the whitewash with one hand while celebrating with his other arm in the air.

"Luke really lifted us when he came on," said Sinfield.

"That's the beauty of our squad. We've got young guys who can come in and put their hands up.

"Luke really epitomises that. He looks like he's already played 100 Super League games."

In person, Burgess - nicknamed "Biffa" at the club - has the air of a man still seeking the confidence to deal with the interest of the media.

"My main focus is just to keep playing well and improving and just to try to keep making the side every week," he told BBC Sport.

Luke Burgess dives over for a try against Harlequins
Burgess made his Super League debut at Harlequins

"We have a bit of a laugh between the forwards and there's a bit of competition between us big boys to see who's going to get the most tries.

"That's two tries this year for me now - Sam's got two as well, so I'm keeping him on his toes!"

Ah yes, Sam, the Super League sensation.

Is Luke driven by his brother's startling success or jealous? Is he focused on emulating his brother and gaining international honours in World Cup year?

"Obviously England selection is at the back of my mind, but I just want to improve every week," he said.

"If I can just keep working on my game and improve all the little things then there's no reason why (England coach) Tony Smith won't pick me. My brother's done it, so why not?"

Leeds coach Brian McClennan - who knows that he has almost an entire pack who will be in contention for the World Cup - has urged caution, however.

"Luke has a lot of potential, but he also a long way to go," said McClennan.

606: DEBATE
BBC Sport's George Riley

"He is an explosive prop, but Nick Scruton does a great job, too, as a more traditional hard-grafting player."

Sinfield is less reticent than his coach.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he snuck into the England squad. If he keeps playing like this, then there is no reason why not," he said.

And the Leeds captain is not the only one to recognise Burgess's qualities, on and off the pitch.

After he made his Super League debut while on loan at Harlequins last May, just days after his father lost a long battle with illness, Quins coach Brian McDermott expressed his admiration for the youngster.

"He made a call to play and he won't make too many bigger calls in his career," said McDermott.

The frightening thing is there are two more Burgess boys - 15-year-old twins Thomas and George - ready to make their mark in the game.

"Me and Sam always used to team up and have fights against our two twin brothers," said Luke.

"They're younger and they're both big lads, too, and they'll be challenging for spots at Bradford in a few years."

Burgess may be challenging for an international spot a bit sooner.

There's a huge amount of competition for places in the England pack, but if "Biffa" can stay in the Leeds side and maintain his energetic performances, then there is no way Smith won't notice him.

see also
St Helens 10-14 Leeds
28 Mar 08 |  Rugby League
World Cup scouting report - Scarsbrook
18 Mar 08 |  Rugby League
World Cup wonders - Who should go to Oz?
29 Jan 08 |  Rugby League


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