- Former Cornish Pirates man keen to impress on Gold Coast
- “It's time to take up the challenge and see what I can do” – Burgess
Phil Burgess admits his first voyage to Australia for the HSBC Sevens World Series Gold Coast event this month will be something of a step into the unknown, but the former Cornish Pirates back-rower is intent on embracing the experience.
Burgess signed a full-time England Sevens contract in April, building on an exceptional spell at Mennaye Field after spending his formative years in rugby with Harlequins Academy and Loughborough Students.
And while his 15-a-side career had been blossoming in the deep South West, the 25 year-old realised that the chance to represent his country was too good to turn down.
“Ben Ryan spoke to me last year after chasing me for a couple of years asking me to come on board,” he said. “This year I just thought it was time to take up the challenge and see what I could do.
“I loved it [at the Pirates], but it got to the stage where they are just starting a re-building phase. At my age I am pushing onto bigger and better things.
“Sevens is an opportunity to do that – even just from going to Australia now. I thought I’d come here, work hard, see a bit of the world and see what happens. You never know what might be around the corner.”
At his best marauding in open spaces – as evidenced by his tally of 12 league tries for Pirates in 2010/11 (as well as plenty more over the ensuing two campaigns) – Burgess was also hopeful that his fluent, free-running instincts would rugby’s shorter format.
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“I played in the back row – sometimes at seven, sometimes eight,” he explained. “I wouldn’t say I was the most conventional player – I did like rucking but I was more of a broken-field runner while trying to hit my breakdowns.
“In sevens I’ll probably become a link-man – working hard to get to the breakdowns, getting the ball away and offering myself on people’s shoulders. That’s how I see myself.
“We’ve got guys here who are faster than I am and better finishers, so I hope I’ll be there to pick up any scraps and keep the team together.”
Though Burgess’ initiation into the England fold has come at a transitional stage – between the reigns of Ryan and newly-appointed head coach Simor Amor – he seemed wholly enthusiastic about his new role.
Indeed, after Joe Lydon and Barry Maddocks loosely oversaw the early stages of pre-season, Amor’s arrival and “hands-on” style has been impressive, with the emphasis on adding organisation and steel to England's defence.
Although Burgess was part of the recent Bucharest Grand Prix success, he is well aware that his debut leg of the HSBC World Series would be an entirely different proposition.
“I’ve played in Lyon and Bucharest at the FIRA tournaments and it was great to be involved in those,” he said. “It was also a step up from any sevens I have played before.
“This next tournament will be another step up. The guys will look after me, I’m sure and it’ll be nice to play in Australia – I’ve never been there and they love their rugby so it’ll be good to be out there.
“I’m sure we’ll get a bit of banter from the sidelines saying how rubbish we are but we’ll take that on the chin. I’m really looking forward to it.”