Andy Farrell is backing Billy Burns to deliver for Ireland this Sunday against France just a week after he was subjected to much online media abuse following his error which sealed their round one Guinness Six Nations defeat away to Wales.

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Burns, who replaced Sexton on 69 minutes at the Principality Stadium having earlier been a head injury assessment sub for Robbie Henshaw, had an opportunity to help rescue the game for Ireland.

However, instead of his touch-finder from a penalty with the clock in the red giving his team a lineout in the Welsh 22, Burns instead kicked the ball dead to confirm the 16-21 defeat that has heaped pressure on Farrell’s reign on Ireland boss. 

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Simon Easterby on Ireland’s preparations versus France

Other players in Burns’ situation could have paid a heavy selection price for that error, but the Ulster out-half has instead been promoted from the bench to now make his second Test start for Ireland when they host the French.

Sexton, who was subjected to upsetting midweek remarks from France, was ruled out on Thursday after failing to meet his concussion return to play markers, prising the door open for Burns to redeem himself as the starting No10.

Farrell claimed his under-fire pick is up for the challenge. “He [Burns] has been great,” said the Ireland coach. “He is strong. He is a proper footballer and he realises it is what it is. Everyone makes mistakes and international rugby, he understands the extent of that but he is a true professional. His team are right behind him and he has trained outstanding this week.”

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Farrell added there had been many pep talks with the player during the week since what happened in Cardiff. “Plenty of conversations, like I do with the rest of the team. You always try and help them find the reasons why, the process they have been through, and see how they are able to cope and park and move on. Come Tuesday Billy has been absolutely fine. He has been leading as every fly-half should do with his training and he had trained really well this week.”

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