Leicester fly-half Freddie Burns pays tribute to Paul Grayson
Leicester star Freddie Burns has revealed his gratitude to Northampton's all-time record points scorer Paul Grayson after pushing Saints towards Aviva Premiership play-off oblivion.
While fly-half Burns' 20-point haul took Tigers to within touching distance of securing a top-four finish, Northampton's 30-24 defeat left the 2014 league champions facing play-off failure.
And former England number 10 Grayson, who enjoyed a memorable eight-year career with Saints that was highlighted by a European Cup final triumph in 2000, has played a pivotal role in shaping Burns' improved goalkicking consistency.
"I have done a fair bit with 'Grays' - he has helped me massively," Burns said.
"The fundamentals he has put into my goalkicking and the confidence he gave me, I have a lot to thank him for. I have worked hard, but he put down the foundations for me to be able to kick the way I am."
Burns, who won the last of his five England caps almost two years ago, hired and paid for Grayson's services himself, with the results clear to see through sustained accuracy off the tee.
"I am not the type of player who wants to get bogged down in the science of goalkicking," Burns added. "I like to see it as putting the ball through the posts.
"Paul gave me those fundamentals, and within that I have been able to tweak it to be more consistent, and I am happy with where I am.
"I haven't seen him for a few months. I felt he put enough into me, and that we had done what we had to.
"It was a case of if I need to see him, then I would. Thankfully, I haven't had to, which is saving me a bit of cash as well!
"The fundamentals he gave me, obviously you write them down, and we worked on them pretty hard last year and into the start of this year. They are engraved in there now, and hopefully they are what I will fall back on through my career."
Leicester's push for a domestic and European double - a feat no English club has achieved since Wasps 12 years ago - owes much to Burns' points accumulating and impressive game-management, both of which proved key factors behind a notable Franklin's Gardens victory.
"I am 25 now, and as much as that is not old, it is that transition from being the young guy who can make mistakes because you are young, to being the guy people look to to drive the team," he said.
"Potentially, I might have struggled with that through the back end of my Gloucester career and the start of my time here (at Leicester), but it is something I thrive on now.
"Defensively, I am showing up, and the goalkicking is going well. They are the things I am not renowned for. The rest I have always had, and I am trying to put it all together."
Next up for Burns is an appointment with New Zealand World Cup-winning superstar Dan Carter when Leicester tackle French challengers Racing 92 in a European Champions Cup semi-final at the City Ground, Nottingham.
"I have never faced him one-on-one," Burns added. "The one thing about playing a guy like him is that I can't control what he does, and he can't control what I do. I have to make sure I do my bit for the team.
"He is probably the greatest there has been. You saw his performances in the World Cup, he has had a huge effect on Racing and brought players along with him, and people speak hugely about the guy."
Northampton, meanwhile, now have to ensure a top-six finish and automatic Champions Cup qualification next term after seeing their play-off ambitions effectively extinguished.
Saints' England flanker Tom Wood said: "The predicament we are in has been over the course of the season. We just lack consistency.
"We have been away at Worcester, Newcastle, London Irish and Sale and lost, and we've been humiliated at home against Wasps.
"That concentration from week to week is what Premiership seasons are built on. We have had it in previous years, but we haven't had it this year.
"We have to get over this (Leicester defeat) pretty quickly because there is a real danger of the wheels falling off and not making the top six, which would be an absolute tragedy for this club and a huge under-achievement."