Three siblings picked in squad for first World Cup game against Australia.
The Burgess brothers have made history by becoming the first trio of brothers to be chosen for the England rugby league side for their World Cup-opening match against Australia on Saturday.
Beefy forwards Sam, 24, and 21-year-old twins Tom and George, who all play for the Russell Crowe co-owned South Sydney Rabbitohs in the NRL, were named in England’s 19-man team to take on the Kangaroos.
With elder brother Luke, the quartet this season entered Australian rugby league folklore as the first set of four brothers to play in the same top-level side for more than a century.
But Luke missed out on selection for England, leaving his siblings to take up the running against the Kangaroos.
“I can only imagine what it must be like for Luke,” England coach Steve McNamara said. “It would have been a marketing person’s dream to have four in but I’ve based my selection on what is best for the team.”
The opportunity for the brothers to thrive in the NRL came after Crowe spotted Sam by chance while filming for “Robin Hood” on location in England.
Oscar-winner Crowe saw him on television while he was playing in the English Super League for the Bradford Bulls — where was given his debut by erstwhile coach McNamara at 17 — and was so impressed he gave him a call.
Sam linked up with the Rabbitohs in 2010 and was joined by Luke, 26, the following year from Leeds Rhinos. George followed in 2012 and Tom joined the fray this year.
The four turned out together on the same ground on the night of August 30 when they played in the final stages of the Rabbitohs’ 32-18 win over Wests Tigers, watched by their mother, Julie, sitting in the stands with Crowe.
The four-brother feat was last accomplished 103 years ago in the competition.
“I wouldn’t have been surprised if all of them had been in there (for England),” Australia coach Tim Sheens said Thursday, identifying Sam as the key man for England.
“They’ve had a great season for Souths this year. It’s been a major story over there when all four of them played against my old club, the Tigers.
“Sam is without doubt the quality player in that pack,” Sheens said.
“Burgess is to England what Sonny Bill (Williams) is to New Zealand. He’s the class player. They provide the X-factor for those teams.”
Sam Burgess said playing with his siblings would not be something the trio would dwell on during the competition.
“The bond you have with your brothers is very strong. You sort of feel each other on the field and I get a great buzz playing with them,” he said.
“We certainly won’t get carried away with this brother thing on the field.
“It’s a thing you’ll look back on after the World Cup and think it’s a great achievement for the family.”
He did admit, however, that it might be tricky for some of his teammates and spectators with his twin brothers charging around the same field.
“I’ve grown up with the twins, Thomas and George, all my life so it’s easy for me day-to-day. But when you’re on the field and you’re a bit gassed and you just catch one in the corner of your eye I’ve been known to get them messed up myself.”
Turning to elder brother Luke, Sam acknowledged that his non-selection was “disappointing”: “It’s very tough obviously with us three here.”
But he said their mother Julie was delighted with the remarkable selection of three of her four sons.
“My mum’s over the moon, she’s always our number one fan,” Sam said of his mother, who hadn’t planned to come over for the tournament.
“If we get to the final we might twist her arm and fly her over,” he said. “She’s working as a schoolteacher in Sydney, so she’s got some commitments there, but I’m sure they’ll understand if we make the final.”