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Slammin Sam back in England colours

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 27/10/2016 Ian Laybourn

Sam Burgess can't help but dwell on his transformation from wide-eyed teen into England's captain courageous as he prepares to pull on his national colours for the first time in three years.

Aged just 18, Burgess signalled his arrival on the international stage with a thunderous tackle on New Zealand heavyweight Fuifui Moimoi that lifted his Great Britain teammates as they went on to win 20-14.

Burgess, then an emerging back-rower with Bradford, also scored a try that day in Huddersfield to complete a memorable debut.

That game is still vivid for the 27-year-old as he gets ready to lead England out against the Kiwis at the same John Smith's Stadium for his first game as captain on Saturday morning (AEDST).

"It feels like two minutes ago, but it's nine years, it's crazy," Burgess said.

"I did not know it was going to happen. I got in front of someone and it looked quite good.

"I know what I was feeling, nerves and emotion before the game. I felt comfortable on the field surrounded by some great men - Jamie Peacock, Adrian Morley, Gareth Ellis, Terry Newton, some wonderful players, which made it easier for me."

The return of dual-code international Burgess, who was suspended for last Saturday's warm-up Test against France, is one of a host of changes made by England coach Wayne Bennett from the team that played France last week.

St Helens centre Mark Percival and Hull prop Scott Taylor, who made their Test debuts in the 40-6 win, have been left out along with Widnes five-eighth Kevin Brown and Warrington utility Stefan Ratchford.

Super League grand finalists Dan Sarginson, Chris Hill, John Bateman, Liam Farrell and George Williams have been brought into Bennett's 19-man squad, along with Burgess, who will make his first appearance for England since their heart-breaking, last-gasp defeat by the Kiwis in the 2013 World Cup semi-final.

"It's been a few years since he played over here and I'm sure the sell out crowd at Huddersfield will be keen to see him out there," Bennett said.

A winnings start is crucial, with the losers at the John Smith's Stadium facing an uphill battle to reach the November 20 final at Anfield.

"We all know the importance of the game," Burgess said. "It is Test match rugby and every game should be do-or-die."

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