Gordon D'Arcy has become the latest pundit to criticise England's decision to start Sam Burgess during the devastating World Cup defeat to Wales at Twickenham. In a detailed and fascinating critique of his role alongside Brad Barritt in midfield, the former Irish international claimed that the naivety of Burgess had embarrassed those around him and severely damaged' the hosts chances of reaching the quarter-finals.
With star attacker Jonathan Joseph ruled out of the vital Pool A clash with a chest injury, head coach Stuart Lancaster orchestrated a controversial reshuffle in which first-choice fly-half George Ford was dropped in favour of Owen Farrell and defensive captain Barritt shifted to outside centre in order to make room for Burgess at 12.
Such a selection was obviously a gamble given that the latter reverted to playing in the back-row at club level for Bath during the final stages of last season and many questioned the concept of abandoning attacking principles on their own turf in an attempt to match up against and ultimately negate Wales's physical approach under Warren Gatland.
That decision ultimately backfired, of course, with England conspiring to blow a 16-9 half-time lead through a combination of shocking indiscipline and woefully inept defending. The inquest into a demoralising loss — that has left Lancaster's side needing to beat Australia at the same venue on 3 October — has been typically uncompromising and covered a vast range of topics, although D'Arcy clear feels the inclusion of Burgess was a vital error.
"It's simply not possible for him to be ready," the soon-to-be retired 35-year-old wrote in his latest column for the Irish Times after recalling that it took him approximately three years to become properly acclimatised to playing at centre. "And now we have proof.
"Burgess lacks the sense of timing, in attack and defence, required to be effective at international level. His naivety embarrassed those around him and severely damaged England's chances of reaching the quarter-finals.
"Stuart Lancaster picked a league convert who doesn't know how to play inside centre for the biggest match England have played since the 2007 World Cup final. To compound the problem, Brad Barritt was out of position at 13 and exposed accordingly when it mattered most."
Although the ex-Leinster stalwart conceded that Burgess did not lack effort in what was only his third senior international appearance since switching codes, he further stressed that his skill-set had yet to transfer from rugby league to union and that pure physicality was never likely to be enough to impress on the night.
"Burgess never got to the pace against Wales. He clearly bust a gut but effort and strength were never going to be enough. Barritt was arguably worse and badly exposed for the Gareth Davies try. By then the Burgess experiment had been abandoned because the England coaching team accepted, long after everyone else, that he had no idea what was happening around him."