- Fly half eager to repay Stuart Lancaster's confidence
- “I like to think I’m a player that thrives under responsibility” – Burns
Calm, composed and mature in conversation, Freddie Burns is set on delivering similarly poised performances when he pulls on the England No.10 shirt for the first time this summer.
The Gloucester Rugby playmaker was originally the only recognised fly half named in Stuart Lancaster’s South America tour squad, until a shoulder injury to Alex Goode prompted the late call-up of Northampton Saints’ Stephen Myler.
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The 23 year old has been tasked with leading the attack and believes the endorsement of the England coaching team will allow him to play with the freedom and poise that has characterised his performances in front of The Shed this season.
Knowing you are likely to start Test matches in advance is three-fold in its advantages – relieving pressure, adding responsibility and extending time on the training field – as Burns explained.
“You want to get in there and put your best foot forward and show what you can do in training, but it’s quite hard between Test matches when you’ve got two 10s in front of you who are likely to be playing at the weekend. It’s hard to get the reps and really show what you can do.
“You get more training time but the main thing is the responsibility it gives you. I like to think I’m a player who thrives under that responsibility tag.
“You get, not a peace of mind, but it sort of takes the pressure off you in terms of jostling for position and trying to play. It’s a great show of faith from Stuart and the coaches. However, I’m under no illusions that my performances against the Barbarians and going into the Test matches have got to be up there.”
Burns starts at fly half against the Barbarians on Sunday, as Lancaster gives a series of new players a chance and rewards those who have waited patiently for an opportunity. While all No.10s are leaders on the field, there is greater emphasis to shoulder responsibility this summer, with 11 uncapped and five aged 21 or under in the touring party.
If goal-kicking is a barometer of maturity on the field, Burns has stepped up this season, kicking 250 points in 17 Aviva Premiership starts in comparison with 193 in 17 starts in 2011/12, and he says that is a result of his necessary leadership at Gloucester.
“It’s one of those roles I’ve really tried to take at Gloucester this year and I’ve been comfortable stepping up there and it seems like a natural transition to here,” Burns said.
“Everyone has got so much respect for each other around the camp and everyone takes responsibility for their individual roles but on the pitch it is down to me and the captains to decide how we go about the game.
“That leadership something I’m trying to bring to training and guide the team through the week, really set the standards and hopefully continue that through to Sunday.”
Photo: Getty Images
Burns made his international debut in the record victory over New Zealand in the 2012 QBE Internationals, kicking two penalties as a replacement and impressively manipulating the All Blacks defence with ball in hand.
But after missing the 2013 RBS 6 Nations with a persistent knee injury, just at a time when he was brimming with confidence, Burns is set on doing everything within his power to make the most of this chance.
“The injury was frustrating, it’s always hard because that’s the nature of the sport, you’re always going to pick up injuries,” he added.
“But to have it at that stage, when I felt I was in good for and felt I could contribute to the team in a positive way during the Six Nations, was tough.
“To not be part of it was gutting and disappointing, however I’ve now got an opportunity in South America to put my best foot forward and I intend to do so.”