Billy Burns is facing a new chapter in his career as he begins life in Ulster.
The 24-year-old signed a two-year contract during the summer and he will add some much-needed experience to the out-half position at the northern province.
Although he is only 24, Burns has considerable experience under his belt. He’s made over 100 senior appearances for Gloucester and most recently guided his former side to the Challenge Cup final against the Cardiff Blues.
The Cherry & Whites signed Danny Cipriani during the summer and although from the outside this may have looked like the writing was on the wall for Burns, the new Ulster out-half believes this wasn’t the main reason for leaving.
“Yes and no,” Cipriani responded when asked whether he left because of the signing of Cipriani. “I’m a confident player, I always back my ability and I like to think I could push my way into the side anyway. Like I said, the main driver for me was coming over to a club which was almost starting afresh with a new coaching staff coming in.
“When I spoke to Dwayne [Peel] about coming over here, his plans were something which excited me and the direction which he sees the club going. Obviously, Dan’s [McFarland] on board with that as well.
“It was just a fresh opportunity for me to come over here and challenge myself and hopefully push Ulster back up that league and be back in the running for European trophies.”
The fact that Burns is Irish qualified more than likely contributed to the IRFU sanctioning the deal but the 24-year-old disagrees with the way the media portrayed the move solely to fulfil his international ambitions.
“There was an article that was released and almost made it sound like I was coming here just to play for Ireland. First and foremost I’m coming over here because I want to play for Ulster Rugby and push Ulster back up and play well here.
“Anything else that comes would be great. Obviously, I have ambitions to play international rugby. You probably hear it all the time but any player at this level has that ambition.”
Burns believes that even if Gloucester had not signed Cipriani, he would have still ended up at Ulster.
“I think I still would have ended up over here,” Burns said. “I think the only thing was obviously Gloucester letting me go at that stage. They would have only had two out-halves if Danny wasn’t coming, so the chance of me getting let go was probably a bit slimmer.
“I think it was one of those that almost married together, I would not have been leaving them short in that position and it was something that I really wanted to do and like I said David (Humphries) and Johan (Ackermann) were both great and they let me go.”
With Johnny McPhillips and Michael Lowry the two players vying for the 10 shirt alongside Burns at Ulster, the 24-year-old is hoping that he can offer his guidance and experience for the benefit of those players and for the benefit of the club.
“I don’t like saying it because it makes me feel a little bit old, I am only 24, but I’ve had a fair bit of experience, albeit playing in a different league, but obviously like you said the likes of Johnny (McPhillips) and Mike (Michael Lowry), they’re great players but probably lack that little bit of experience so I think that is something that I can hopefully help the side with.”
Burns is in line to make his Ulster debut on Saturday night from the bench when his former club Gloucester pay a visit to the Kingspan Stadium.
Billy Burns was speaking a the Eir Sport announcement that its first broadcast Cardiff Blues v Leinster will be made free to air to celebrate the channel becoming the NEW home of rugby in Ireland.