- Fly half eager to impress Stuart Lancaster after toughest period of his career
- “Sometimes you've got to take it on the chin and move on” – Burns
Typically honest, Freddie Burns admits the past few months have been the most difficult of his career to date. That said, he also knows England Saxons’ clash with the O2 Ireland Wolfhounds on Saturday (January 25) represents a gilt-edged opportunity to force his way into Stuart Lancaster’s RBS 6 Nations plans.
Out of contract at the end of the current season, the fly half was hounded by speculation about his future and endured a series of poor performances as Gloucester Rugby lost all but two of their first nine Aviva Premiership matches.
That led to Nigel Davies dropping him from the starting side, with Billy Twelvetrees assuming the number 10 role for consecutive wins over Worcester Warriors and London Irish.
Consequently, Lancaster decided to promote Bath Rugby’s George Ford and Stephen Myler of Northampton Saints to his initial training squad for the RBS 6 Nations alongside Owen Farrell – leaving Burns to demonstrate his credentials for the Saxons at Kingsholm this weekend.
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However, buoyed by two encouraging Heineken Cup results – a battling defeat to Munster and Sunday’s sensational 38-16 away victory over Perpignan – as well as the relief of Gloucester’s confirmation that he is to leave this summer, the 23-year-old is primed to prove his worth.
“It’s been a tough season individually and [with Gloucester], but I feel I’m back to my usual self and playing the sort of rugby that I enjoy,” he said. “That can only help me and the team.
“I’m very realistic about how my form’s been this year and having a couple of good games for Gloucester gives me a great chance to push forward as part of this squad.
“It’s an opportunity for me to show Stuart and the rest of the coaches that I am back to where I have been before and ready to be called up again.”
Recalling an honest conversation with Lancaster, Burns added that his game management would have to be at its best in order to impress – even if a fast, wide approach might be tempting given that the Saxons group features strike runners such as Elliot Daly and Charlie Sharples.
“Stuart told me about the selection but now it’s down to [Saxons coaches] JC [Jon Callard] and Joe [Lydon] to lay down the principles. It’s about variation – when to go wide, when to go up the middle, when to kick.
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“Those are things I can only work out when I’m on the pitch but at the minute I look round and want to get some of the boys with the ball in their hand.”
Although he made his debut from the bench during the superb 38-21 victory over New Zealand back in December 2012, Burns has been restricted to just two more Tests – twin wins over Argentina on last June's tour of South America.
Explaining that a maiden RBS 6 Nations appearance would mean “everything” to him, he finished with a frank assessment of recent months and looked forward to the special experience of running out at his club ground in his country’s colours.
“I’ve had bad games here and there in the past, but never a sustained dip in form. I’ve learned a lot about myself and I’m glad it’s happened now rather than in 18 months’ time. You’ve just got to hope these experiences make you a better player and a better person, take it on the chin and move on.
“Kingsholm is one of the great places in the country to play, so to run out there in a white shirt with a rose on my chest is going to be great.
“I’m sure we’ll get a good crowd down there and hopefully a result as well.”