Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Cockerill hails Burns gamble

Richard Cockerill believes Freddie Burns should be praised for leaving his "comfort zone" at Gloucester to lead Leicester's Aviva Premiership play-off surge - even if it costs him a World Cup place.

Bath-born fly-half Burns will line up against his hometown club in Saturday's play-off semi-final at The Recreation Ground, having warmed to his Welford Road task after an indifferent start.

Burns toured New Zealand with England last summer but struggled to impose himself at Leicester after leaving Gloucester, where he had made his name.

The 25-year-old could miss out on England's World Cup training squad, which Stuart Lancaster will confirm on Wednesday, but Leicester boss Cockerill has backed Burns to ride out any potential disappointment.

"Freddie should take a lot of credit for taking himself out of the comfort zone where he was guaranteed to play to come to a place where he's wanted these sorts of occasions," said Cockerill.

"I think he should take a lot of credit for that.

"He's still a young man and he will get better the more he plays.

"He's got a chance but there are some good 10s in the Premiership.

"Is he in the top three? He may struggle to get in the top three but we'll see.

"I want him to be really good for us, if he's really good for us he'll get the chance to play higher up the chain, and that's as simple as that.

"If you start thinking the other way around you're probably going to find yourself in trouble.

"So he's working really hard on his goal-kicking, working really hard with Geordan Murphy on his decision-making, and I think all of that's made him a better player.

"I think he's a better player here than he was playing for Gloucester."

Welsh fly-half Owen Williams' early-season form forced Burns to bide his time in proving his mettle, but has fought his way back to form across the second half of the campaign.

Burns should lead Leicester's line back at his junior club Bath in Saturday's play-off battle, after the Tigers sneaked into the league's top four.

The five-cap playmaker has fallen behind Sale's Danny Cipriani and Northampton's Stephen Myler, and if he remains fifth choice he could miss the World Cup.

With Bath's George Ford now established as England's number 10, and Owen Farrell running him a close second, Lancaster is unlikely to find a place for Burns.

Cockerill believes he will fight his way back to Test prominence in the fullness of time, however.

"Freddie's improving all the time: he's working hard at his game," said Cockerill.

"We know his natural talent; that's still there, I think his percentage game's getting better.

"I think he's making better decisions when there are no decisions to make.

"That's the hardest thing for a decision-maker, when there's nothing on what's the right decision to make?

"Previously I think that's been to overplay his hand, but he's got a lot, lot better at that, and I think he's a lot more comfortable in the side having had a run, and his goal-kicking's been good.

"So it's a Bath boy going back to Bath in a semi-final playing for Leicester, you couldn't ask for more from it really."


From Belfast Telegraph