Throughout his journey from raw teenage talent to a full England international, Luther Burrell seemed inextricably linked with Stuart Lancaster.
The Cumbrian was head of Leeds’ youth set-up when Burrell joined the academy from Huddersfield, later handing the centre his first professional contract as well.
Although they would both go their separate ways – Lancaster moving to RFU as head of elite player development in 2008 – they were reunited again in 2013 when Burrell, by then starring for Northampton Saints, was called up to the England squad.
Going on tour to Argentina in 2013, playing in a non-cap international against a South American XV, he won his first cap under Lancaster in the following year’s Six Nations and the 31-year-old remains thankful for his association with the now-Leinster coach.
“He is a very special man in my heart and mind,” Burrell told Sky Sports. “He played a huge role throughout my career, bringing me in from a teenage lad at Leeds, bringing my mum and dad in and explaining what he is willing to do and the time he’s going to put into me.
“I remember he got the full England job and I was absolutely made up for him. He was giving certain players caps who I’d played against under Stuart Lancaster and I text him say ‘If this guy can get caps, there’s hope I can make it’.
“He said, ‘it’s not about hope, mate, it’s about your work ethic and mindset. You’re a good enough player, how are you going to do it?’, basically. It gave you enough fuel and ammunition to keep working hard.”
He is a very special man in my heart and mind. He played a huge role throughout my career.
Luther Burrell on Stuart Lancaster
Burrell and Lancaster remain close, with the former having messaged his old coach to catch up when Northampton and Leinster met in last season’s Champions Cup.
However, their relationship became strained when Burrell was left out of the England squad for the 2015 Rugby World Cup in favour of then-recent rugby league convert Sam Burgess, despite having been a regular in that year’s Six Nations.
“For some reason, it all came down to me and Sam,” Burrell said. “It was just a really funny situation I found myself in.
“Ultimately, I think Stuart Lancaster will have suggested to tell me himself because he felt it was the right thing for him to do. I walked into the office and I could tell straight away.
“He got emotional about it, I just got up and walked out, which was probably not the right thing to do, but my emotions were sky high and I’d just had a home World Cup taken away from me.
“Then all of a sudden, I’ve got the media following me, I can’t go to my house and I can’t walk the street, so it was a really difficult period at that point.”
Keeping up with Jones
England’s dismal showing at their home World Cup, which culminated in a pool-stage exit, led to Lancaster departing his role as England head coach.
In came Eddie Jones, with the Australian employing his markedly different approach to his predecessor when it came to overseeing the national team.
Jones’ arrival led to a brief recall to the England set-up for Burrell, who won his 15th and final cap in the 39-28 win over Australia in Brisbane on the 2016 tour, and he found out plenty about the new coach’s unique approach.
“Eddie is different,” Burrell said. “A really great guy off the training park and everything else, but he is the hardest man to read.
“He’s very honest with his approach when it comes to rugby, but one minute he’ll be next to you at the counter getting some food, watching what you’re eating and giving you a bit of gip if you’ve got too many chips on your plate and the next minute he’s on the training field calling you out in front of the whole team.
“He keeps everybody on edge and that’s why I think the England squad rotated a little bit. He rotated it several times throughout my involvement and I missed out on Eddie’s team because another rugby league lad had come over and taken my spot in Ben Te’o.”
Eddie is different. A really great guy off the training park and everything else, but he is the hardest man to read.
Luther Burrell on Eddie Jones
Burrell moved the other way across rugby’s divide when his contract with Northampton finished last year, joining Super League outfit Warrington Wolves.
But not long after making the switch, he crossed paths with Jones once more.
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