For as long as he’s been well-known amongst the higher tiers of English Rugby, Freddie Burns has been a Gloucester player through and through. As a young and exciting prospect from Bath Rugby’s academy, Burns joined the Cherry and Whites in 2007 and settled in as an enthusiastic and instinctive fly-half, earning himself a senior contract in 2009.
Born and raised in the West Country, it was inevitable that Burns found himself at home at Gloucester Rugby, quickly racking up points throughout the Premiership and establishing himself as first-choice number 10. His reliable kicking skills and spark in the back line saw him awarded player of the month on more than one occasion, and winning the Gilbert Golden Boot award topped off a great 2012-13 season for the young sportsman.
Recent game-time in New Zealand during England’s 2014 summer tour brought attention to Burns’ abilities to step up to the mark under pressure and play well knowing there is a lot riding on every performance. With Owen Farrell out at the start of the tour on club duty and George Ford missing through injury, it was important for Burns to use this chance as England’s leading fly-half to redeem himself to sceptics, especially ahead of his move to Leicester Tigers and with the World Cup on the horizon. Despite England losing all three tests on the tour, Burns proved himself as consistent and able to control the game, even against the fiercest of opponents, and deservedly earned himself two more international caps.
After a somewhat rocky 2013-14 season, his eagerly anticipated move to Leicester saw him replace Toulouse’s new recruit, Toby Flood. As well as having big boots to fill, the strong competition for the number 10 shirt in the form of 22 year-old Owen Williams, who last season revealed himself as one of Leicester’s brightest young talents, added to the pressure that Burns faces at Welford Road. However, with Williams out on a ban until the start of the Premiership, opportunity arose for him to play amongst the Tigers pack and establish himself during friendlies. Off the back of these solid performances, he started as fly-half for Tigers first game of the season against Newcastle Falcons, successfully kicking two conversions and four penalties to aid Leicester’s victory, as well as being a key player across the field.
Knowing how Leicester have turned other fly-halves such as Flood and Williams into star players, the future looks good for Burns. Williams, who only moved from Scarlet’s in 2013, overtook Flood last season to become first choice for the Midlands based side, with Richard Cockerill saying
Owen’s starting as our number one now and is keeping a player with 60 England caps (Flood) on the bench.”
The experience that Burns already has combined with his huge potential at Leicester Tigers results in a recipe for greatness. This season is key; with next years World Cup looming over the the sport, it gives reason for players to up their game and offer themselves to be picked to feature at the biggest stage of rugby possible. Undoubtedly, the rivalry for the England number 10 shirt will be intense as it already boasts an impressive field of competition. With Farrell, Ford, Burns and Cipriani in the running so far, speculation grows as to who is up for the challenge. Depending on form this season, Cipriani may be too far down the list of contenders, and with the ever threat of injury, any of the players could fall at the final hurdle. However, Burns already seems to be developing well at his new home and could easily achieve new heights at Leicester Tigers. Looking forward to 2015, there is a good chance he can prove his talents and accomplish enough to be a member of England’s World Cup squad and be awarded this highest honour.
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