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'My passion is to play for Ireland' - Former England U20s star Billy Burns has no regrets ahead of Twickenham date

By Ciarán Kennedy
Ireland out-half Billy Burns. (Getty)

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Billy Burns says he won’t have any conflicting emotions should he get to line out for Ireland against England in Twickenham on Saturday. Burns enjoyed a promising underage career with England and was the country’s out-half during the successful 2014 Junior World Championship campaign, a team captained by Saracens star Maro Itoje, but senior honours never followed.


Burns has since switched allegiance and made his senior Ireland debut against Wales last Friday.

Burns played over 100 times for Gloucester before signing for Ulster in 2018, and is Irish qualified through his grandfather. His older brother, Freddie, won five senior England caps between 2012-14, but Ireland’s latest Test debutant says he is more than happy to be wearing green instead of white.

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“It’s been crazy. Obviously I played age group with England and then had a career at Gloucester which I loved, I loved my time there,” Burns said.

“I always knew that I was Irish qualified through my grandfather and the opportunity came up to go to Ulster first and foremost, and it was just an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. I felt it was the best place for me to go and improve as a rugby player and push on and hopefully try and play international rugby.

“So yeah, it’s strange, but all the decisions I’ve made to get to this point have sort of come to fruition I guess, because I managed to get out there (against Wales) on the weekend.

“But I don’t want to be a guy who plays once and then disappears and just goes away again. I want to try and stay in the team, try stay in squad, which is going to be unbelievably tough, but hopefully I can get it done.


“It’s been a strange old journey to get here, but again, one day I think I’ll look back with an immense sense of pride, and I’m happy to be here and happy to be trying to put my best foot forward.”

Burns was thrown in earlier than expected in the 32-9 win over Wales after Johnny Sexton pulled up with a hamstring problem in the first half. The Ireland captain will miss Saturday’s trip to Twickenham as a result, but Burns is facing his own race to be cleared to play after a HIA ended his first senior cap midway through the second period.

The 26-year-old is currently following the return-to-play protocols and should play against England if he comes through the week without any setbacks.


“I won’t feel conflicted at all,” Burns said.

“I’m very much here to play for Ireland. My passion is to play for Ireland, I loved representing Ireland on the weekend, so there will be none of that.

“I’m fully focused on – if I do get the opportunity and things go well with the return-to-play – it will all be about getting the win for us.

“It doesn’t matter if we’re playing England, New Zealand or whoever. It’s all about getting the result for us.”


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