Some are already calling him ‘King Billy’ – it was always likely to happen when you sign a player three days before the Orange Order’s July 12th celebrations.
“I don’t know much history about it to be honest with you. We’ve had a few presentations but I’m hoping it doesn’t stick too long.”
The signing caused extra intrigue with the news that Burns is Irish-qualified through his grandfather, who hailed from County Cork, although Burns says he hasn’t spoken to Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt.
“There was an article that was released and almost made it sound like I was coming here just to play for Ireland. First and foremost I’m coming over here because I want to play for Ulster Rugby and push Ulster back up and play well here”, the 24-year-old said.
“Anything else that comes would be great. Obviously, I have ambitions to play international rugby. You probably hear it all the time, but any player at this level has that ambition.
“It was something that I always looked into doing. Obviously, being Irish-qualified it was an avenue which could open for me. It’s as simple as when a club as big as Ulster with the history they’ve got come calling, it’s a hard one to turn down.
“I was probably in a position at Gloucester where I was very comfortable. I just felt that at this stage of my career it was a chance to move on a challenge myself; get thrown in the deep end, not knowing many guys over here and see how I go.”
Continue reading below…
He played 29 times for Gloucester last season, including 24 starts, but once Danny Cipriani’s signature was confirmed did he see the writing on the wall?
“Yes and no. I’m a confident player, I always back my ability and I like to think I could push my way into the side anyway.”
Burns revealed that Director of Rugby David Humphries and Head Coach Johan Ackermann pulled him to the side to inform him of Cipriani’s impending arrival at Kingsholm, just three days after he’d been playing at 10 in the Challenge Cup final in Bilbao.
“Obviously it did surprise me a little bit, but at the same time that’s rugby, that just happens. It was a tough one to take at first, but I always had this…this opportunity was always there and it was one that I was seriously thinking about and it was probably sort of the nail in the coffin, in that it was a good chance to move on and go over here and challenge myself and hopefully come in here and play a lot of rugby.”
But asked by RugbyPass whether he would have stayed at Gloucester if they’d not recruited another outhalf.
“No I don’t think so, I think I still would have ended up over here. I think the only thing was obviously Gloucester letting me go at that stage. They would have only had two outhalves if Danny wasn’t coming, so the chance of me getting let go was probably a bit slimmer. I think it was one of those that almost married together, I would not have been leaving them short in that position and it was something that I really wanted to do and like I said David (Humphries) and Johan (Ackermann) were both great and they let me go.”
Gloucester’s loss is Ulster’s gain and having played over 100 times for the Premiership outfit he feels that those miles on the clock will be hugely advantageous to Ulster in the aftermath of losing Christian Lealiifano and Paddy Jackson.
“I don’t like saying it because it makes me feel a little bit old, I am only 24, but I’ve had a fair bit of experience, albeit playing in a different league, but obviously like you said the likes of Johnny (McPhillipps) and Mike (Lowry), they’re great players but probably lack that little bit of experience so I think that is something that I can hopefully help the side with.
“I am still at a stage where I am still trying to work out what our best style of rugby is and what suits the players around me and hopefully I can be that piece that comes in and knits that all together. Don’t get me wrong it is not going to be down to one man, it is going to be down to a squad, but hopefully like I said, I can come in and we can play a style of rugby that not only excites the fans, but also pushes us up to the next level.”
Burns has never played in Ireland during his career, he’s due to make his Ulster debut on Saturday at Kingspan Stadium – the opponents are Gloucester, naturally, with Danny Cipriani set to be his opposite number. Both will have plenty to prove, Cipriani even more so, whose arrest only came to light after Burns had spoken.
You may also like:
Billy Burns was speaking at the eir sport announcement that its first broadcast, Cardiff Blues v Leinster will be made free to air to celebrate the channel becoming the NEW home of rugby in Ireland.
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.