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VIDEO – Calm, confident Burns looks to end on a high

19 June 2014

  • Fly half says past three weeks have kick-started his career 
  • Burns keeps mind-set clutter-free and focused

Watching Freddie Burns calmly direct proceedings for England at Eden Park a fortnight ago without prior knowledge, you would have had no clue about his difficult domestic campaign for Gloucester Rugby.

Freddie Burns

Photo: Getty Images

Marrying smooth distribution with tenacious defence and a nerveless kicking display that yielded 12 points and a perfect return from the tee, Burns seemed every inch a Test performer – so nearly guiding Stuart Lancaster’s charges to a seismic result.

Following a rather indifferent Aviva Premiership campaign at Kingsholm, the 24-year-old demonstrated impressive character and responded to some sofa critics in the best possible manner.

Though Owen Farrell returned for the second Test in Dunedin last weekend, a knee ligament injury to the young Saracen means Burns is back in the fray for the series finale on Saturday. Reflecting on a bittersweet evening in Auckland, he exuded the honesty and poise that has defined England’s approach to this tour.

“[The first Test] feels like a long time ago,” Burns admitted. “After the team was announced and I heard I was back in, I did look back to take the confidence from it. I was happy with how things went as a team and as an individual.

“I was disappointed to lose in the manner we did but the squad has come a long way as it has every week.

“Directly after the game it might have been about answering a few critics but a few days passed and it became about answering a few questions I had of myself as well.

Freddie Burns and Mike Brown

Photo: Getty Images

“When you have a dip in form, the person you question first and foremost is yourself. That game filled me with a lot of confidence going forward.”

The Leicester Tiger to-be suggested his mindset may have been cleared by a self-imposed Twitter ban that has fixed his focus securely on rugby. An absence of social media has meant far less clutter and concern over outside opinions.

As England search for a historic win over the All Blacks at Waikato Stadium, Burns will need that single-mindedness to remain. New Zealand’s ruthless streak was starkly evident in Dunedin as they preyed on lapses in concentration to plunder three tries in a phenomenal third quarter.

“We have to stick to what we know and not go off script,” he explained. “Sometimes you need that little bit of individual brilliance as Manu showed at the end of last week’s game with that backdoor pass, but when you’re under the kosh it’s about doing the basics well and making sure you don’t give them momentum.

Freddie Burns

Photo: Getty Images

“Understanding the momentum shifts in a game is important as well. They only had it for about 10-15 minutes in the second half on Saturday and they scored a few tries. It’s about understanding when you need to just do the right thing and win some territory.”

Inside an exciting centre combination of Kyle Eastmond and Tuilagi, Burns will again have an abundance of runners to launch at the All Black defence when England are on the front foot.

Well aware that another assured performance will enhance his standing ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, he is itching to lay down a marker – and then reinforce this new-found confidence at Welford Road.

“The last three weeks has been a bit of a kick-start to my career in a way, as much as the season just gone hasn’t been a great one.

“It’s given me a new work ethic. I’ll have some time off after the tour but then I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in at Leicester and really building on the last three weeks.

“I want to end this season on a positive note and there’s no better way of doing that than beating the All Blacks in their own backyard.”