Ulster’s super star desperate for another Ireland chance after tearing Leinster apart

“My form hasn’t even warranted a phone call, to be honest with you,” he admitted. “I’m a realist, I haven’t been playing well enough the last couple of years”


Billy Burns acknowledges that Andy Farrell was correct to put the phone down for so long, but he still longs for another opportunity to play for Ireland.

The Ulster no. 10 last appeared in a Test match two and a half years ago, coming off the bench against Japan during the summer series of 2021.

“Is that accurate? Indeed, it seems like a long time,” Burns remarked. Like, I’m itching to get back. The World Cup was fantastic to see.”

Burns’ outstanding performance in his province’s RDS victory over Leinster will have captured Farrell’s eye in this post-Johnny Sexton era.

The crucial next step is backing it up and showing that he is a better player than the one who fell off the Ireland radar and is down the pecking order.

“My form hasn’t even warranted a phone call, to be honest with you,” he admitted.

“I’m a realist; for the past few years, I haven’t performed well enough. Not because I’m not trying; rather, I feel that I’m hopefully beginning to regain my previous level of performance and that the rugby style we’re playing will be a great fit for me.

But once more, just one strong game doesn’t mean I’ll be Ireland’s top player in the future. In important games, I have to support it every week.”

In the 2021 championship, he made his Six Nations debut, starting a 15–13 loss over France at home.

However, a critical mistake a week prior, late in Ireland’s championship opener in Cardiff when he kicked out on the full when aiming to put a penalty deep in Wales’ 22 – cost Farrell’s men a shot at an unlikely victory.

That campaign did nothing for his chances of staying involved and, by the end of that summer, Burns was effectively exiled as others were tried out as back up to Sexton.

Yet Ross Byrne is an example of a playmaker who came back in from the cold.

Byrne was not called up for eighteen months, until November 2022, when Farrell summoned him up. Accompanying Sexton and Munster’s Jack Crowley to the World Cup was the Leinster out-half.

While Byrne is recovering from an injury, Crowley is set to start the Six Nations opener on February 2 away to France.

With Sexton out of the picture, however, the door has opened, and Byrne hopes that his brilliant kicking performance against Leinster—which resulted in three tries—is just the beginning.

The 29-year-old, who only has seven caps, would welcome a second opportunity to play in Test matches.

“Everyone wants to play at the top level and I feel like I’m a much different player to what I was when I was in the last time,” he said.

“I just discovered a lot. I went in there, and I doubt I said anything. I think I’m far more capable of handling the pressure than I was the prior time.

“And that’s not necessarily the obvious mistakes – the mis-hit into touch against Wales – just generally around the place.”

He is aware that he needs to be more reliable in order to persuade Farrell and Ireland supporters. Burns thinks Ulster’s new approach to the game will help with that process.

“Sorry to say it, I’ve just got to keep playing well and see what happens,” stated the player. I’m having a great time in Ulster.

“We all have sincere faith in the path we’re taking,

“Everyone sincerely believes in the path we’re on; we’re attempting to somewhat alter our style of play, and I want to contribute to that.

“Keeping my No. 10 jersey is difficult enough; Jake Flannery is playing incredibly well, and Nathan Doak is capable of filling in.” With any luck, I can merely keep improving this performance.

“I hope it’s not a coincidence.

“I want to keep improving because, whether it was due to a lack of confidence, poor form, or something else entirely, I definitely lost out on my attacking kicking a few years ago.

“I knew it had been a while when before most games my mum calls me and says, ‘Make sure you try a chip over (the top)’.

To be honest, my mother is completely ignorant about rugby. Bless her! She was correct, but then again, she makes that claim every week, so eventually she had to be!

“But I enjoy doing it, and it’s a part of my game. I would argue that it was likely a lack of confidence, and our previous playing style didn’t exactly help. Naturally, we were a little bit more specialized, but these days, we’re attempting to pose a threat all over the field.

However, I’d like to return to that. In a few weeks, I hope to build on this and take on Toulouse in another difficult task.


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