Burgess’s injury will not derail our World Cup bid, insists England coach Bennett

Sam Burgess receives treatment during England's World Cup opener against Australia.
Sam Burgess receives treatment during England's World Cup opener against Australia.
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England coach Wayne Bennett insists the injury to Sam Burgess will not derail his side’s World Cup hopes.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs forward came off after 35 minutes of his country’s 18-4 defeat to Australia in their tournament opener in Melbourne after succumbing to the injury he sustained in a tackle from Kangaroos second rower Matt Gillett.

England coach Wayne Bennett.

England coach Wayne Bennett.

Bennett told the post-match press conference his star player has sustained knee medial ligament damage, ruling him out until just before the quarter-finals, which start on November 18.

England have two more group games, against Lebanon and France, before entering the knockout stages, and will clearly be hoping to have Burgess back for the semi-finals on the weekend of November 24-25.

“Sam’s done a medial by the look of it, that’s three to four weeks,” Bennett said.

“We’ve a quality footy team here. Sam’s always going to be a loss to any team.

“But we managed for 60 minutes without him tonight and we didn’t seem to lose a lot of momentum.”

England had earlier suffered a blow before kick-off when St Helens prop Alex Walmsley was denied the chance to make his Test debut after succumbing to a virus.

Bennett instead gave Warrington second rower Ben Currie his debut, insisting the late change did not cause any major disruption.

“It’s just football,” he said. “It’s like Sam getting injured. We’ve got a quality squad here so you just put another player in and get on with it.”

Burgess, who captained England in the 2016 Four Nations Series following his return from rugby union, was playing his first competitive match for two months and so would have almost certainly featured against Lebanon in Sydney next Saturday.

However, England will feel they are well enough equipped without him to beat both the Cedars and France, in Perth on November 12, as well as potential quarter-final opponents Papua New Guinea in Melbourne a week later.

They will be keen, though, to have the talismanic player back for a likely semi-final showdown with New Zealand in Auckland on November 25.