England's Rugby League World Cup team manager Barrie-Jon Mather has backed suggestions that Sam Burgess may have stayed in the NRL if he could play State of Origin but believes the 25-year-old will struggle to make the transition before the rugby union version of the tournament.
South Sydney co-owner Russell Crowe told Fairfax Media last week that Burgess would have been less tempted by the code switch if he had been able to represent the Blues and Mather, who is now the NSWRL general manager of football, agrees.
In fact, Mather is convinced that Burgess' desire to switch codes was sparked by the experience of playing in front of 73,000 fans during last November's World Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium and said the Rabbitohs forward would never have experienced an atmosphere like it.
''That made a massive difference to him,'' Mather said. ''There were 75,000 people all cheering for England and he hasn't experienced that. Russell was saying he has not had a chance to play for the Blues and I think if he had experienced that atmosphere he may have stayed but you can't blame him for wanting him to go and try something.
''There is nothing like playing for your country in a World Cup with 90,000 people cheering for you and the whole country wanting you to do well. I think that is what has probably made his mind up for him.''
Mather, the first player to switch from league to union in the 1990s, has no doubt Burgess will feature in England's Rugby World Cup campaign at the end of next year but he questioned how well the Souths star would adapt to the code by then.
''I am convinced he will make it, I just don't think it will be in the timeframe England are hoping for,'' Mather, a former English dual international, said.
''I don't think he will be like Sonny Bill [Williams] was in his last year of rugby union. Look how long it took Sonny Bill to get to that stage and Sonny Bill, you could argue, was something more of a ball player.''
After being granted a release by Souths following the payment of a $1 million transfer fee by English premiership club Bath, Burgess is due to begin his £500,000-per-year contract in October. With the season having already begun, Mather said he would have little time to adapt.
''He will have had no pre-season, he won't know what the shape is or what structures they are going to play, so he is going to have a lot to learn in a very short time to make a very big impact to force himself into the team,'' Mather said.
''It is going to be a steep learning curve for him and Sam will have played a full NRL season, a Rugby League World Cup, another full NRL season, a full rugby union season and then he is going to have to play in another World Cup.
But with the RFU having instigated his move to Bath, Mather expects England coach Stuart Lancaster to pick Burgess - possibly as early as December.