herald

Thursday 8 December 2016

Te'o starting to find form for Blues

League converts Te'o and Burgess on similar paths

Ben Te'o
Ben Te'o

This is a story of South Sydney rugby league converts.

One came as an icon of the other code; the other to take over from one.

Sam Burgess and Ben Te'o were team-mates. Now, they have to settle for being great mates for all but 80 minutes as Bath come to Leinster on Saturday.

There was a hullaballoo over where 'Slammin' Sam' whether could make the transition quickly enough to muscle his way into the England set-up for the World Cup.

It has been to Burgess's detriment that he made the switch from League to union at Bath just as Kyle Eastmond and Jonathan Joseph were beginning to work in harmony with George Ford.

The transfer of the 26 year-old is described on Bath's official website as "arguably the most high-profile cross-code move in rugby history."

The 6'5" 18 1/2stones centre manned the number thirteen jersey in place of Joseph against relegated London Welsh on Sunday, registering his second try in eleven matches this season.

And there could be a sting in the tail for Leinster if Burgess is detonated as an impact on Saturday with Eastmond and Joseph surely nailed on to start.

Leinster's signing has had to cope with the stress of enduring a fracture to his arm on his debut and working his way back into a game he is, literally, learning on-the-run.

Worse again, the Aucklander was out for what should have amounted to his three-month apprenticeship when he was suppose to be playing in the jersey worn by 'the one and only'.

The slower-than-expected recovery from the arm injury has been compounded by the fact the club was destroyed by injury early in the season and hampered by their annual loss of Ireland internationals for November and the Six Nations.

Even so, the New Zealander has started to return the faith placed in him by Leinster coach Matt O'Connor as a thorough gain line threat.

It is no coincidence the Australian was fond of using Manu Tuilagi as a wrecking ball for Leicester Tigers at outside centre and he sees Te'o providing a similar service for Leinster.

He has played just eight matches since his move and seven of those have come since January, filling out four 80-minute matches and 72 minutes against Glasgow last Friday night in which he excelled, especially with ball-in-hand.

The 28 year-old does bring the sort of physical size at 6'2" and 161/2stones and explosiveness that Leinster have not had in the midfield with the added benefit of the capacity to offload.

The dedication to defence is a given from the former National Rugby League champion and State of Origin veteran who's big hits are part of why he is here.

There has been a noticeable improvement in his impact onto the ball.

His confidence and comfort seem to be coming along with every match.

"He's a threat, he gets his hands free, he offloads, he gets us in behind defenders. He's a big, physical guy," said O'Connor.

"That's what it said on the tin. He's starting to deliver."

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