England have suffered a major blow ahead of the autumn internationals with the withdrawal of talismanic forward Sam Burgess.
The former Bradford favourite, named this week alongside his twin brothers Tom and George in Wayne Bennett’s 24-man squad, picked up shoulder and wrist injuries playing for South Sydney in the latter stages of the NRL season and says he cannot delay surgery.
“I’m gutted that I have to withdraw because I love playing for my country and it is a great honour,” Burgess said.
— South Sydney Rabbitohs 🐰 (@SSFCRABBITOHS) October 5, 2018
“The reality of the situation is that it’s imperative that I get these surgeries done and, with a view to the next three or four years, I need to get them done now.
“I’ll be watching on from Australia and cheering on England against France and New Zealand, and I’m sure the team will do England proud.”
Burgess, who recently signed a four-year contract extension with the Rabbitohs, captained England in the 2017 World Cup final in December in the absence of Sean O’Loughlin and won his 23rd cap in helping them beat the Kiwis 36-18 in Denver in June.
England say they will name a replacement over the weekend, allowing Bennett to assess contenders in the Super League semi-finals.
St Helens forward Matty Lees and the Warrington trio of Harvey Livett, Jack Hughes and Joe Philbin will all be hoping they caught the coach’s eye in Thursday’s game and there will be other candidates on show at Wigan on Friday.
Castleford’s Oliver Holmes is in the England Knights squad for the tour to Papua New Guinea, while team-mate Mike McMeeken was a member of Bennett’s World Cup squad.
England play France at Leigh Sports Village on Wednesday, October 17, in their first match on home soil since 2016 and take on the Kiwis at Hull’s KCOM Stadium on October 27, at Anfield on November 4 and at Elland Road on November 11.