Bennett's All Star offer to Burgess
If Sam Burgess needed a further incentive to return to rugby league and the NRL, coach Wayne Bennett has thrown a carrot out in the form of a World All Stars jersey should he be available.
Having been at the helm of the NRL All Stars over the past five occasions that the game has been played, Bennett will take the helm of a World All Stars team against the Indigenous All Stars in Brisbane on February 13 next year.
It's a subtle yet significant shift which will limit the numbers of Australian, New Zealand and England representatives to four apiece and open up at least six places in the 20-man squad for players of Pacific Nation heritage.
Kangaroos captain Cameron Smith, Kiwis skipper Simon Mannering and injured England captain James Graham will be automatic inclusions in Bennett's team while the public vote for the Indigenous All Stars team is now open and closes on December 6.
Bath rugby union coach Mike Ford on Wednesday moved to end any speculation that Burgess was close to a return to the NRL and South Sydney but Bennett said that if he switches back, he will have no hesitation in making his return to the game in an All Stars jersey.
"He'd be good. He played the first year he came out to Australia, I picked him then before he'd played a game in the NRL and he loved the week," Bennett said at the unveiling of the World All Stars in Brisbane.
"I remember him coming to me afterwards and thanking me and I think it also helped the players in that team get to know him and accept that Sam is a great player and a good bloke and I think that was a big stepping stone for him as he started his NRL career.
"If he's available, you can put him down."
Cowboys pair Antonio Winterstein and Jason Taumalolo along with Joseph Paulo were the only members of the NRL All Stars team this year to have represented a Pacific nation in Test football with Taumalolo currently on tour with the New Zealand team.
Graham was the only other non Australian or New Zealand aligned player in the 20-man squad with the selection changes to open the way for the likes of Semi Radradra, Marika Koroibete, Solomone Kata and Sisa Waqa to make their All Stars debut.
"I want to make an exciting team. We try to play an exciting brand of football and it's not life or death to us, we do want to entertain so we'll be looking at those types of players that can provide that," Bennett said.
"There's a little bit more flexibility there now too, we can take two out of one club if we have to which in the past we've only taken one but certainly every club will be represented.
"That's an important part of what we're doing here."