The Ulster fly-half is one of five uncapped players in Andy Farrell’s squad, alongside provincial team-mate Tom O’Toole and Leinster’s Max Deegan, Caelan Doris and Ronan Kelleher.
Burns’ inclusion marks the end of a quest that began in 2018 for the 25-year-old, having moved to the Kingspan Stadium from Gloucester knowing that he was qualified to represent Ireland through a grandparent.
Bath fly-half Freddie, who is four years older than Billy, has five caps for England and said that he is seeing his younger brother’s “hard work beginning to show reward”.
Billy moved from Gloucester in 2018 following the arrival of Danny Cipriani at Kingsholm. At that time he was not really on the radar of either England or Ireland, despite being a world champion with England under-20s.
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However, his form for Ulster since the move – particularly this season – has warranted a call-up as one of three fly-halves in the squad.
Ulster’s form in the Guinness PRO14, where they sit second behind Leinster in Conference A, and in the Heineken Champions Cup, where they are on the brink of qualification to the quarter-finals, has seen Burns selected ahead of Connacht’s Jack Carty, despite the latter going to the World Cup with Ireland.
Sexton is the new captain in succession to the retired Rory Best. However, at the age of 34 and returning from injury, the British and Irish Lion will need to be managed throughout the Six Nations, meaning Burns could get his opportunity to play at some point.
For now, his squad selection proves that the move to Ulster was the right decision back in 2018.
WATCH: Andy Farrell talks about his Ireland squad selection
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