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McNamara rejects Burgess 'thug' tag
England coach Steve McNamara has defended the disciplinary record of star forward Sam Burgess after he was ruled out of Saturday's second World Cup Group A match against Ireland through suspension.
The South Sydney favourite was put on report for a high tackle on second-rower Sam Thaiday in Saturday's opening 28-20 defeat by Australia at the Millennium Stadium, and subsequently received a one-match ban after an international match-review panel decided the challenge was careless.
England have decided not to appeal against the decision and allowed Burgess to take the day out of camp at Loughborough University on Tuesday to represent the squad at a reception with the Prince of Wales at Clarence House.
Australian newspapers have claimed that Burgess would have been suspended for up to eight matches had the offence occurred in the NRL, where there is a loading system based on players' previous records.
Since joining the Rabbitohs in 2010, Burgess has been charged six times by the NRL match-review committee and he served three suspensions this season, including one for an infamous 'squirrel grip' on Melbourne centre Will Chambers.
All players start the World Cup with a clean slate, as they do at the FIFA World Cup and Rugby Union World Cup, because they are drawn from a variety of competitions with different judiciary systems.
McNamara dismissed a claim by one Australian journalist that the former Bradford forward is a "thug".
"That is completely wrong," McNamara said. "Anyone who understands Sam knows he's not that type of player."
McNamara insisted Burgess' tackle on Thaiday was nothing more than "clumsy" and believes a precedent was set in the 2011 Four Nations Series when Australia forward Tony Williams was given a one-match ban for a high tackle.
"He nearly decapitated Ben Westwood and got a one-match ban," McNamara said.
"We judged the incident. Sam has got to pay the price for his clumsy tackle and we've got to take that one on the chin.
"If you watch the tackle closely, Sam didn't go to maim anybody. He got his timing wrong.
"Thankfully Sam Thaiday was okay. There was nothing too major done there."
Burgess will return for England's final group game against Fiji in Hull on Saturday week and, in the meantime, his place at loose forward is set to go to Wigan skipper Sean O'Loughlin.
O'Loughlin missed the game against Australia, as well as England's warm-up defeat by Italy, with the Achilles injury that restricted him to a solitary outing for the double-winning Warriors in the last month of the domestic season, the Super League Grand Final.
"He has a real strong chance," McNamara said. "He's trained extremely well and extremely hard with the conditioning and medical staff.
"He will train with the team fully and we'll see where he is in the next day or two."
Warrington second-rower Westwood will face Ireland with 15 stitches in a head wound and he could line up alongside Canterbury Bulldogs prop James Graham, who sat out the opening game in Cardiff due to what was thought to be an internal disciplinary measure.
McNamara, who cut short a press conference at the Millennium Stadium last Friday when continually quizzed about the non-selection of Graham, declined another opportunity to clarify the situation at Tuesday's media session in Loughborough.
"Everyone was available last week barring Sean O'Loughlin, who we decided not to risk, and everyone is available this week," McNamara said.
"We've got 24 really good players in our squad and some very good players who didn't play last week.
"It's very early in the week and we're still partly reviewing the game.
"The players will all train today and tomorrow. We've got some decisions to make.
"If we need to make some changes, we will do, but I won't be playing anybody just for the sake of it. It's about winning the tournament. We've got to find the best route for that."