Billy Burns helped win England a World Cup – now he aims to knock them out of the Nations Cup
Burns on his Ireland debut last week against Wales (Image: Sportsfile via Getty Images)
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Billy Burns aims to go from kicking England to Junior World Cup final glory to knocking them out of the Nations Cup.
Six years after steering Maro Itoje’s team to victory in the under-20 global showpiece, Burns is primed to play against England for Ireland.
The hamstring injury that forced Johnny Sexton off against Wales has ruled the Lions fly-half out of Saturday’s Twickenham clash.
It means Burns, who is Irish-qualified thanks to his paternal grandfather, is in line to feature in Andy Farrell’s 23.
"How conflicted will I feel? Not at all,” said the Bath-born 26-year-old. “I’m very much here to play for Ireland. My passion is to play for Ireland.
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Burns (above and below) in action for England against South Africa in 2014 Junior World Cup final
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
(Image: Getty Images)
“I loved representing Ireland on the weekend, so there will be none of that (conflicting emotions).
“It doesn’t matter whether we are playing England, New Zealand or whoever, it’s all about getting the result for us.”
Burns, whose older brother Freddie won five caps for England at fly-half, has first to come through the return to play protocols having taken a head knock on his debut against Wales.
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Big brother: Freddie Burns (left) on senior England duty
The fact Ireland put him up to speak to the media yesterday suggests they are confident he will be okay.
Burns, who spent six years at Gloucester before moving to Ulster in 2018, could even start ahead of Ross Byrne.
“If I can tick all the boxes, which I'm tracking along well with at the moment, then hopefully I'm in the conversation,” he said.
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Burns is tackled by Alun Wyn Jones and Shane Lewis-Hughes on his Ireland debut against Wales
(Image: Sportsfile via Getty Images)
“I don’t want to be a guy who plays once and then disappears and just goes away again. I want to try to stay in the squad.”
Asked if his selection would make for difficult conversations amongst his family, he laughed.
"It will be an interesting one this weekend going in against England,” he said. “Obviously I have a lot of friends back there, went to school in England and all that.
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“But my parents are huge Irish fans. My dad has always had his Irish jersey on.”
Watching from Japan, where he has recently moved to play for Shokkie Shuttles, brother Freddie tweeted: “Super proud”.
England have easily won the last three meetings between the sides and yesterday leapfrogged New Zealand into second place in the world rankings behind South Africa.
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England back row Jack Willis
(Image: The RFU Collection via Getty Ima)
But this game, which amounts to a semi-final given that only the pool winner advances to next month’s final, is a big step-up on their last two outings.
Jack Willis won’t quickly forget Saturday's clash with Georgia, given it was his debut and he marked it with England’s first try.
“It’s something I’ve dreamed of since I was a young lad,” he said. “It’s an incredible feeling to finally get here.”
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England head coach Eddie Jones
(Image: Getty Images)
But getting there and staying there are different matters given the depth of England’s back row resources.
It is likely head coach Eddie Jones will revert to his first choice combination of Billy Vunipola, Tom Curry and Sam Underhill for Ireland.
“There’s some pretty special talent here and I need to keep working incredibly hard,” Willis conceded.
“In this environment if you don’t continue to improve you are going to get left behind.”