Bath-born Billy Burns ready to take on England with Ireland
Newly-capped Ireland fly-half Billy Burns insists there will be no conflicting emotions should he be selected to face his native England.
Bath-born Burns is bidding to make a full Test debut in place of injured skipper Johnny Sexton in Saturday’s Autumn Nations Cup clash at Twickenham.
The 26-year-old represented England at Under-20 level and is the younger brother of former England fly-half Freddie Burns but opted to switch allegiances to Ireland after qualifying through a paternal grandparent.
He came off the bench to win his first cap during Friday’s resounding 32-9 win over Wales and stressed his commitment to the Irish cause ahead of potentially going up against the country of his birth.
“I won’t feel conflicted at all. I am very much here to play for Ireland. My passion is to play for Ireland,” said Burns, who began his career with Gloucester before moving to Ulster in 2018.
“I loved representing Ireland on the weekend, so there will be none of that (conflicting emotions).
“It doesn’t matter whether we are playing England, New Zealand or whoever, it’s all about getting the result for us.”
Burns was a first-half substitute against Wayne Pivac’s side due to veteran Sexton limping off with a hamstring injury which has subsequently ruled him out of the trip to London.
The maiden outing was later cut short after he was forced off for a head injury assessment.
He is currently undergoing return to play protocols and is satisfied with the progress being made as he vies with Ross Byrne for the vacant number 10 jersey.
“Obviously selection is not until later on in the week,” said Burns.
“If I can tick all of the boxes in the return to play protocol, which I am travelling along well with at the moment, then hopefully I am in the conversation, for sure.
“If I get that opportunity, it will be great to pull on the shirt again and hopefully contribute to getting a big win over at Twickenham, which is one of the toughest places to go.
“I don’t want to be in for just one game. I want to try and get back in that squad and play regularly.”
The fly-half position is one of a number of selection dilemmas facing head coach Andy Farrell.
- November 13: Ireland 32-9 Wales
- November 21: England v Ireland
- November 29: Ireland v Georgia
- December 5: Ireland v Fiji/France/Italy/Scotland
Sexton’s absence means Farrell will have to make a decision on the captaincy, while centre Robbie Henshaw has been ruled out with a groin problem.
Full-back Jacob Stockdale remains doubtful after missing the Wales game with a calf problem but lock Iain Henderson has already returned to training following an unspecified medical issue and should be in contention to face Eddie Jones’ men.
Burns has been trying to absorb as much information as possible from Leinster duo Sexton and Byrne as he gets to grips with the demands of the international game.
“He (Sexton) has been great – him and Ross. They’ve obviously played in massive games,” said Burns.
“They’ve both got incredible rugby knowledge, they’ve played on the biggest stage and they’ve achieved a lot, so both of them have been great for me.
“We have lots of mini meetings as 10s and – as much as it might sound a bit cheesy – I have just tried to be a bit of a sponge and take as much as I can off those guys.
“They are two of the best guys to learn off and hopefully we are creating a good little competition where we can push each other.”