KYLE Eastmond knows better than most the challenge that awaits Sam Burgess when he swaps league for union later this year, but the former St Helens man has little doubt his childhood friend will live up to the billing.
Burgess’ £500,000 switch from the 13-a-side code with the South Sydney Rabbitohs in Australia’s NRL to the Rec in October is already one of the most eagerly-awaited moments of next season, with excitement building over what the 25-year-old Great Britain star might deliver.
Eastmond made the move in 2011 and, while his first campaign was overshadowed by injuries, he promptly excelled to the extent that three England appearances followed last year.
Burgess is widely tipped to do likewise and Eastmond reckons his friend’s ability means any misgivings about him being able to make the transition will prove unfounded.
“I’ve known him since I was 13. He’s a great player and I’m sure he will do well when he switches,’’ said Eastmond.
“It’s a different sport but Sam’s ability is outstanding and he loves a challenge so I’m sure it’s something he’s really looking forward to.’’
There has been plenty of speculation over where Bath will play Burgess upon his arrival – a feeling Eastmond knows himself having been tried in a handful of positions during his time at the club.
The Oldham-born back has featured at wing, full-back and been mooted as a candidate for the number 10 shirt by Bath’s coaching staff but reckons he may have found his niche at inside centre, from where he scored a try in last week’s 32-25 Premiership win over Wasps.
“It does take a bit of time, especially when it’s not your natural game, but I’m happy with where I’m at,’’ he said.
“I can still improve. I enjoy it at 12.’’
That bonus-point victory left Bath in a strong third place in the Premiership standings but Eastmond has warned his teammates they can expect to be punished if they turn in a similar display against Saracens at the Rec tonight (7.45pm).
“It was nice to get the win and the bonus point, but there were a lot of things we can work on and get better at because we were a bit sloppy in that game,’’ he said.
“This is a team (Saracens) that will take full advantage if we turn up and produce that again.
“Their league position shows that because they’ve always been up there, so we’ve worked hard this week.
“We’ve not been on a bad run and we’re still improving.
“We don’t want to be losing our home record, but it’s not something that has been spoken about because the competition is that hard that anyone could lose to anyone else on the day.’’
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