Burgess boys say bring it on
When Mose Masoe sat George Burgess on his bum midway through the Samoan resurgence against England last Saturday, it represented a battle won in a war between two of the biggest bodies in the game.
It also, according to English scribes Down Under covering the Four Nations tournament, represented the first time Masoe had done something that eye-catching all season, a season in which he won a Super League title with St Helens.
But with big brother Sam now on the other side of the world, the Burgess twins, George and Thomas, have become the lightning rods for every opposition forward looking to make a name for themselves.
Their collective response to that is a simple one: Bring it on.
Unless David Klemmer earns a Test debut for the Kangaroos on Sunday no member of the Australia forward pack can match the sheer size that the Burgess boys possess – George is listed at 194cm and 120kg, Thomas at 196cm and 120kg – so it will take an unnatural willingness to submit their bodies to the collision to stop momentum that is capable of turning the Test on its head.
Sam Thaiday will pack down opposite George in the opening exchanges giving up 13cm and 10kg with Klemmer and Aaron Woods the only members of the Kangaroos squad to come within 10kg of the pair.
Stopping George and Tom in their tracks will be high on Tim Sheens's tip sheet and that suits the twins just fine.
"It's good. The more we get targeted the less pressure there is on their teammates so we'll take that any day. I don't mind taking a bit of pressure off my teammates," George told NRL.com.
"Me personally, I don't look at individuals in teams, I try to look at the team as a whole and not worry too much about individuals."
With older brother Sam absent from the squad along with a number of other key England players from the past five years, centre Kallum Watkins noted that the twins had taken on more of a leadership role in the squad despite still being just 22 years of age.
South Sydney's Grand Final triumph was George's 50th appearance in the NRL and game No.26 for Thomas but both said they felt comfortable having a greater influence within the England set-up.
"I think no matter what your status in the team is, when you're carrying the ball you're leading the team, so everyone's a leader in their own right I think. This week everyone's a leader," Thomas said.
"There's a fair few senior players that have left the group last year – Rob Burrow, Kevin Sinfield, Sam Burgess, the likes of Benny Westwood are not in the team, our captain, Sean O'Loughlin wasn't in the team last week – so the likes of me and Tom and other players like Gareth Widdop and Matty Smith have to step up and be a bit more vocal because you need that noise out there from your senior players," added George.
"Hopefully we'll have 17 leaders on that field on Sunday; everyone's going to be playing their part."
Both George and Thomas made their Test debuts against Australia in the opening game of the World Cup last year, George scoring a try 10 minutes into the second half to get the English back within six points.
But they were not afforded a saloon passage into the NRL with the Rabbitohs, with George spending time in both the under-20s and NSW Cup competitions while Thomas also served his apprenticeship with the North Sydney Bears as he adjusted to the increased demands of the NRL.
"Probably just the training over here, it's probably a bit more intense and longer days," Thomas said. "If you talk to anyone who comes out here from England they'll agree with that and the week to week consistency of teams.
"Every team, if you're not on you're going to get beaten. Sometimes in Super League you had some down weeks where there's teams that if you don't play your best you still might win but that's not the case in the NRL and that's probably the biggest difference. Every team's competing to win that grand final and obviously you've got the warmer weather too."
Added George: "I think it's the internal competition as well inside the squad. There's a lot of competition for spots so it makes you strive to be at your best to make sure you're in that 17 for when the games comes."