Everything you need to know about Ulster's new fly-half Billy Burns
Ulster's long search for an out-half is over with the signing of Billy Burns.
The province had been on the look-out for a number 10 since Christian Leali'ifano's short-term deal came to an end midway through last season.
A move for former All-Black Stephen Donald fell through in January, leaving 21-year-old Johnny McPhillips as Ulster's first choice for the remainder of the campaign.
Then with an eye on next season, Ulster had been linked with a series of options, most strongly with Leinster's Joey Carbery, who instead opted to join Munster.
Now Ulster have brought in Irish-qualified Billy Burns. So just who is he?
All you need to know about Billy Burns
Home town: Bath, England
Has he won anything? After making his Gloucester debut as a 17-year-old way back in 2012, Burns was sent on loan to Hartpury College in the National League 2 South. He became one of the division's top scorers with 205 points in the 13/14 season, helping his side to the title. He returned to his parent club in time to help them to European Challenge Cup success in 14/15. He started this season's Challenge Cup final as his side were beaten by Cardiff Blues and has tastes international success. More on that later.
Was he Gloucester's first choice? He has been for the past two seasons. He made 24 starts last term and in total he has scored 304 points in 101 appearances. However, Gloucester signed Danny Cipriani from Wasps this summer so that wasn't going to help him ensure maximum game time.
International experience: He has played for England Under 18s and Under 20s. His performances for Hartpury secured him a spot in the panel for the U20 Six Nations and the Junior World Championship back in 2014. He even put in a sterling performance in the World final, scoring 11 points to help England beat South Africa 21-10.
So what about Ireland? Burns qualifies to represent Ireland through a grandparent on his father's side and now sees that as his chance to 'play at the highest level of the game'. Bryn Cunningham reckons he will achieve that 'in the near future'.
What can he do on the pitch? Well here are a couple of samples of his skills, first of all from this year's Challenge Cup final:
Ohh Billy Burns! 😍— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) May 11, 2018
What a start to the Challenge Cup final as Gloucester take the lead as Henry Trinder latches on to a SUBLIME crossfield kick! pic.twitter.com/oj2xPEjOG0
Brilliant from Billy Burns!— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) April 20, 2018
The Gloucester 10 saw a gap, and he didn't look back 👏 pic.twitter.com/w9mYmoiO0a
What has he said about the move? He said: "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 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.”
What have other people said about him? Well here are the words of Gloucester's director of rugby, a certain David Humphreys:
“Billy has played a central part in what we’ve been trying to achieve at Gloucester Rugby over the past few seasons. He’s developed through the Academy, into a top quality Premiership fly half who has never given anything less than his absolute best every time he’s played."
So what does his signing mean for Johnny McPhillips? Bryn Cunningham doesn't seem too worried that it will stifle the promising young player's progress.
He said: “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."