Rugby

'I've Not Tried Lying About It. I Supported England Growing Up'

'I've Not Tried Lying About It. I Supported England Growing Up'

18 months after leaving Gloucester to join Ulster, Billy Burns was called into the Ireland squad for the first time last week.

The 25-year-old was born in England but qualifies to play for Ireland through his paternal grandfather.

"It was awesome to get called into that squad; a great little confidence boost," the out-half told The Rugby Pod.

"I'm just looking forward to getting down there and getting stuck in. I've not been involved in an international set-up before. I went down to that stocktake camp but that was only a day.

"It will be good to train with some guys who are at the top of their game and hopefully push for a start or place on the bench, get on and get that first cap.

"I was disappointed to leave Gloucester, I loved it there. I was living the dream in Cheltenham, had great mates there and was playing regular rugby.

"I was under no illusions, I knew that when we signed Danny Cipriani I'd be struggling to get game time.

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"The stars aligned with the Ulster move and them needing a fly-half. It was just an opportunity where I couldn't really turn it down.

"I knew I was Irish-qualified and I had that in my back pocket. The good thing is it's worked out for both parties: Danny Cipriani has been class for Gloucester - he got Player of the Season last year.

"I've come over here and feel like I've grown as rugby player. I'm making the step into the Irish set-up."

Asked if he has picked up the Irish accent, Burns responded: "I'm still very much south-west England in the way I speak. I haven't learned any of the slang just yet."

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Burns won the 2014 World U20 Championship with England, playing at out-half in a team which also featured Maro Itoje. He admitted that it will feel strange if he lines out for Ireland against England.

I've not tried lying about it. I supported England growing up. I represented England at under-18s and under-20s.

That's the way rugby is now. I've still got a lot of family over here in Ireland. My old man, especially, has always supported Ireland.

It fell into place and now I'm over here I've very much bought into the Irish style of rugby and the way of living over here. I'm as passionate as ever for Ireland and looking forward to getting stuck in, that's for sure.

Ulster beat Bath at the weekend in the Champions Cup and progressed to the quarter-finals of the competition. Playing opposite Burns for the Premiership side was his older brother Freddie.

"When you're lining up for a scrum and you're looking at him opposite you, it's hard not to have a chuckle and a bit of banter," said Burns.

"Once the game's going, you kind of forget about it. There were a couple of times where he got me on the floor in a breakdown and gave me an elbow. It is good craic. I'm just glad we came out on the right side - he'd have got stuck into me for ages if we didn't."

At one point, the older Burns nearly intercepted a pass by his younger sibling.

"We spoke about it all week," said Billy.

"He's got a tendency for taking interceptions. I threw it and it was like slow motion, if he'd taken that interception and scored, I'd probably have retired.

"As soon as he slapped it down, I was straight in the referee's ear trying to get a yellow card, which he wasn't too happy about. Lucky enough, it didn't stick and I got away with it."

Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

See Also: Noel McNamara Believes Irish U20s Will Make Their Own Mark

PJ Browne
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