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The forgotten 17-stone England centre weighing up a Super League switch

Luther Burrell during the 2015 Six Nations

Luther Burrell could be line for a shock cross-code switch to rugby league when his contract runs out at Northampton Saints this summer.  

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The former England centre is apparently set for more talks with Warrington Wolves, according to the latest edition of the weekly UK Rugby Paper.

The Super League outfit see him as a 2020 season replacement for Ryan Atkins, the 33-year-old who is in his testimonial year at the club. 

League isn’t an alien rugby code for Burrell. He played for Huddersfield Giants growing up before embarking on a successful union career that saw him play for Leeds and Sale before his 2012 switch to Northampton catapulted him into the England frame. 

However, it would be ironic if went on to become a Super League success in the coming years given that it was a cross-code signing in the other direction that massively damaged his stint with England. 

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Burrell had started the entire 10 matches of England’s 2014 and 2015 Six Nations campaigns only to find himself controversially axed from the World Cup squad to accommodate Sam Burgess, who has come into the union fold after winning the NRL title with South Sydney Rabbitohs. 

The inclusion of Burgess in the midfield dramatically backfired on Stuart Lancaster, who lost his job as England boss after they failed to progress from their pool at the tournament. 

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Luther Burrell has been linked with cross-code switch to rugby league when his Northampton deal runs out this summer (Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

Burrell briefly bounced back to win two more Test caps under Eddie Jones, Lancaster’s replacement, but he hasn’t had a look-in since a 2016 appearance away to Australia in Brisbane.  

The 31-year-old Northampton centre has claimed he never held a grudge against Burgess, who fled the England scene following the World Cup and returned to the Rabbitohs. Instead, Burrell took issue with his Lancaster, the current Leinster assistant, left him down. 

“I have got no grudge against Sam. He didn’t put himself in the team. He had an opportunity of a lifetime and he was able to live that dream,” said Burrell in a BBC interview shortly after Burgess decided to quit union and go back to league. “For me it was about wishing him the best of luck, my issue wasn’t with him whatsoever.

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“He [Lancaster] let me down. That is how I feel about him. I have known Stuart a long time. I have a huge amount of respect for the bloke, what he’s done and what he has achieved. I didn’t think I had done anything to justify not getting selected.”

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Jon 1 hours ago
Sam Cane was unfairly cast in Richie McCaw's shadow for too long

> McCaw’s durability and sustained excellence were unique, but we seemed to believe his successors were cut from the same cloth. It’s easy to forget McCaw was just as heavily critiqued for the last two years of his career. The only real difference was his captaining criticisms and his playing criticisms happened at different times, where Cane was criticized for a few things in both areas for all of his last 4 years. This was also heavily influenced by another McCaw esque presence, in Ardie Savea, being in the team and pushed out of his original position. It could be said we essentially didn’t have the 3 prior years with Ardie as world player of the year because he was changing into this new role. I say “original” position as despite him never coming out and saying his desire is to perform his role from, that I know of, clearly as part of a partnership with Cane as 7, I don’t think this was because he really wanted Cane’s playing spot. I think it most likely that it comes down to poor All Black management that those sort of debates weren’t put to bed as being needless and irrelevant. It has been brought up many times in past few months of discussions on articles here at RP, that early calls in WC cycles, to say pigeonhole an All Black team into being required to have a physical dynamo on defence at 7 (and ballplyaer at 8 etc) are detrimental. In the end we did not even come up against a team that threw large bodies at us relentlessly, like why we encountered in the 2019 WC semi final, at all in this last WC. Even then they couldn’t see the real weakness was defending against dynamic attacks (which we didn’t want to/couldn’t give 2019 England credit for) like the Twickenham Boks, and Irish and French sides (even 10 minutes of an English onslaught) that plagued our record and aura the last 4 years. It really is a folly that is the All Blacks own creation, and I think it pure luck, and that Cane was also such a quality All Black, that he was also became an integral part of stopping the side from getting run off the park. Not just rampaged. > The hushed tones, the nods of approval, the continued promotion of this nonsense that these men are somehow supernatural beings. I bet this author was one of those criticizing Cane for coming out and speaking his mind in defence of his team that year. Despite the apparent hypocrisy I agree with the sentiment, but I can only see our last captain as going down the same road his two prior captains, Read and McCaw, have gone. I am really for Cane becoming an extra member to each squad this year, June, RC, and November tours, and he is really someone I can see being able to come back into the role after 3 seasons in Japan. As we saw last year, we would have killed for someone of his quality to have been available rather than calling on someone like Blackadder. Just like the Boks did for 2023.

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