The 10-word Kevin Sinfield pep talk that inspired Freddie Burns
Gallagher Premiership match-winner Freddie Burns has revealed his amazement that a half-time prediction from Leicester Tigers assistant Kevin Sinfield was exactly on the money last Saturday at Twickenham. A 24th-minute sub for the injured George Ford, ex-England half-back Burns was unexpectedly thrown into the maelstrom of the end-of-season showpiece at a very early juncture.
Things went well up to the break, Burns taking on board some pertinent advice from fellow his sub Ben Youngs before running on and playing his capable part in helping Leicester to move 12-3 ahead and turn around the 0-3 deficit that existed when the substitution took place.
It was while he was walking back out for the second half, though, when something was said to him that he will never forget, assistant coach Sinfield uttering just ten words before they went their separate ways. What was said worked out to a tee, Burns landing the final’s winning points with 23 seconds remaining on the stadium clock.
Having spent the days following the game celebrating joyously with his Leicester teammates, Burns finally caught his breath and he reflected on the final during an appearance on this week’s RugbyPass Offload. Here he takes up the story of his sudden call from the bench and how what both Youngs and Sinfield said to him struck a chord.
“I was sat there with a can of Red Bull going, ‘He [Ford] will be alright’. ‘No, no, get up. He has done his ankle and is coming off’. The cameras were in your face and you are just sort of patrolling. Everyone was coming up to me and to be fair, Ben Youngs, a real good mate of mine, was before I went on, ‘This is why we brought you back, this is your time’.
“It went alright up to half-time and we are buzzing and everyone keeps coming up to me, ‘Mate, just remain calm’. ‘I am calm! Leave me alone’. Kev Sinfield, I’ll never forget it, I was walking out for the second half – me and Kev have got a good relationship and we had some good chats this year – but he turned around to me and he went, ‘Mate, you’re right boot will win this for us today’. That is all he said.”
Chatting with his top off and a glass of wine, Burns admitted he never dreamed he would be the match-winner on such a massive day for Leicester, recalling how awkward he felt at the start of the season trying to get any sort of a look-in on the team.
“No, never. I signed for Leicester and I go, ‘They have got George Ford, so I am going to be second choice ten. That’s alright’. Then I am, ‘They have got a young lad, Freddie Steward, at 15, so they will want a bit of experience so there is a good chance I might get a bit of game time at 15’.
So I was, ‘I’ve got a place’. I rock up and the two best players in the team this year have been the ten and the f***in’ full-back. But I was fully prepared on Saturday. I had a good run in the semi-final and back in the Six Nations period and I was like, ‘No matter what happens today, whether I get on for 30 seconds or 30 minutes, I contributed to the team getting where it has got, contributed to the success of it’. But to come on as early as I had to and to have that moment was just ridiculous.”
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