Wednesday 18 July 2018

Ulster confirm the signing of Irish-qualified flyhalf Billy Burns from Gloucester

Billy Burns
Billy Burns
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Billy Burns has traded Gloucester for Ulster in a bid to force his way into the Ireland squad in time for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

England Under-20s cap Burns is Irish qualified despite being born in Bath, and Ulster have backed the 24-year-old to push into Joe Schmidt's national squad.

Burns replaces Paddy Jackson, who had his contract revoked in April over controversial social media and text messages relating to the trial in which he was cleared of rape.

Ireland boast British and Irish Lions star Johnny Sexton, with Joey Carbery moving from Leinster to Munster to strengthen his claims as the Test-match understudy.

"Being Irish-qualified we have no doubt that Billy has the potential to represent Ireland in the near future," said Ulster's operations director Bryn Cunningham, with Burns signing a two-year deal.

"Billy has an impressive range of skills and has gained a considerable amount of experience for an out-half of his age.

"We're delighted that Billy has signed with us for the next two seasons.

"It has not been an easy process to find someone with the requisite abilities to add real value to our squad for this season, but thankfully we've come to an agreement with Gloucester and have been able to bring Billy across.

"Johnny McPhillips has developed brilliantly and Michael Lowry has shown that he's a serious talent, but it was critical that we had another recognised 10 with a good level of experience, otherwise we simply would've been short of numbers in that area. The addition of Billy now gives us an exciting array of young talent to call upon in the coming years."

Ulster have had to cast around for a replacement for Jackson, whose Test career has now stalled after his and team-mate Stuart Olding's sacking.

The duo were acquitted following a nine-week rape trial in Belfast in April, but had their Ulster contracts ripped up over the controversy surrounding their overall behaviour.

Both Jackson and Olding have taken up deals to play in France, with the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) not considering either man for Test selection.

Burns has racked up more than 100 Gloucester appearances since his debut as a 17-year-old in 2012.

The younger brother of Bath and England fly-half Freddie Burns, Billy visited Kingspan Stadium on Monday to complete his Ulster deal.

"This is a great opportunity for me to take the next step in my career and I'm very grateful to Gloucester for supporting me in this decision," said Billy Burns.

"The Ulster squad is brimming with established and developing talent, and it will be exciting for me to challenge myself in a different environment.

"I'm really looking forward to linking up with the squad next week and getting stuck into pre-season training. Hopefully I can show the Ulster supporters what I'm all about and contribute to the team in what is a hugely important season."

Online Editors

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