Former England fullback Andy Goode is adamant that Irish coach Andy Farrell should keep the faith in Ulster out-half Billy Burns, despite his late mistake in Sunday's defeat to Wales.
Speaking on The Rugby Pod with former Scottish second row Jim Hamilton, Goode raised the question of whether Farrell would drop Burns for this weekend's game against France. Burns - who came on late in the game for Johnny Sexton - misjudged a kick to the corner with the clock past 80 minutes, kicking the ball dead and sealing the game for Wales.
Goode argued strongly that Farrell should stand by Burns and not bow to pressure to drop him.
"There’s a big decision to be made here, it could be the making or breaking of Billy Burns. If you’re Andy Farrell – and there’s the big clamour, I saw Brian O’Driscoll tweeted “Harry Byrne’s on speed dial” – does Andy Farrell drop Billy Burns? I don’t think he should."
Jim Hamilton agreed with Goode's assessment, saying that Farrell "surely" can't be considering dropping Burns.
Speed dial Harry Byrne...
— Brian O'Driscoll (@BrianODriscoll) February 7, 2021
Young Leinster out-half Harry Byrne has been the subject of much discussion in the aftermath of the defeat in Cardiff, with Brian O'Driscoll among the voices calling for his inclusion in the squad for the remainder of the Six Nations. Goode also expressed his desire to see another half-back called up to the squad - though it wasn't Byrne he appeared to have his heart set on.
"I tweeted #BringBackCooney – didn’t think Conor Murray played that well. I’m not just getting on the John Cooney train, I cannot believe he is not in that squad.
What having Cooney in the squad does is it gives you that kicking option at goal, which you know is hugely important, then if you bring in Harry Byrne – there’s talk of him playing at Leinster, younger brother to Ross – or Ross, or you can go with Billy, you’ve got someone like Cooney who can take the pressure off one of these young 10s coming in."
— Andy Goode (@AndyGoode10) February 7, 2021
Over on ITV's Six Nations podcast, former English prop David Flatman echoed the positive statements towards Burns, suggesting that the out-half had to go for it given the time on the clock and that it was an honest mistake.
"I love the courage with which he booted that ball. He went for the full Henry Slade into the corner. He went for it and it didn’t work […] I think to myself, ‘good lad’, if you land that, you’re a hero
I admire him [Billy Burns] because he’s not in my team – I think, if someone did that in my team, I might struggle a bit more."
Though Burns' mistake undoubtedly cost Ireland a shot at winning the game, the general consensus would appear to be against any cut-throat decisions to drop him for the France game.
Andy Farrell faces an anxious wait to see whether or not first-choice out-half Johnny Sexton will be fit for Sunday's game in Dublin. Sexton went off with an apparent concussion in the Welsh game, but reports today suggest that he may be back in contention to play after moving through the head injury protocols quicker than expected.
With Sexton back in line to start on Sunday, the battle is on for a place on the bench for the Irish out-halves, with Burns no doubt anxiously looking over his shoulder at the likes of Ross Byrne.