Billy Burns insists he is ready to steer Gloucester during the opening weeks of the season.
With Greig Laidlaw almost certain to be on World Cup duty with Scotland and James Hook and Billy Twelvetrees likely to be away with Wales and England respectively the decision-making onus will fall to Burns.
He would be the front-runner to pull on the number 10 jersey in the absence of Hook, should the Cherry and Whites’ regular fly-half be retained by Wales, and he is relishing the opportunity.
Burns, 21, said: “First and foremost I hope Hooky gets in, he deserves it for the way he played last season. He did massive things for us.
“For me it would also be nice as it would hopefully open up the door but it’s not something I can control at the moment. All I can do is make sure I’m in the best possible shape to take it on if that happens.
“Last year it was great for me to get the opportunities that I did, I learnt a lot from the guys like Hooky, Aled Thomas who was here, Greig and Billy.
“If those guys are away I definitely feel ready. Last year I handled myself well in the games I was involved in but there’s still plenty to work on.”
With the World Cup in mind and the departure of Thomas, David Humphreys could have been forgiven for bolstering his fly-half resources.
But that never seemed a realistic option and Gloucester instead turned to youth by promoting Mat Protheroe from the academy and pointing to fellow rookie Lloyd Evans.
That was a clear show of confidence in Burns’ ability and maturity to pull the strings in the pivotal position and the former England Under-20s ace is happy to embrace that responsibility.
He continued: “Now the pressure is on me to repay that faith. This has always been a club that gives chances to young players and if they take them they will stay in the team. Hopefully I can start well and carry it on from there.
“I’m still trying to hold onto my youth but there are quite a lot of the senior guys away so it means I have to grow up a bit. We can’t be our jovial selves as much but we have plenty of leaders and we’re in a good place.”
The big kick-off to the 2015-16 season is still a long way off, almost three months to be precise, and Burns is well aware of the gains he can make in the period.
This is the first time as a professional that Burns has had the luxury of a proper summer break and a full pre-season.
And having re-charged his batteries on holiday with elder brother and Gloucester predecessor Freddie, he is determined to get in the best physical shape possible.
He said: “We got away to Jamaica for 10 days which was nice, we just relaxed and spent some quality time together.
“We tried to stay away from rugby but it only took a couple of days to buy a rugby ball for the pool. It got competitive really quickly but it was nice to get away with Fred.
“It’s great to get that and I really feel I can roll into the season in the best physical shape I can be in.
“This is the first time where I’ve had a proper off season. I really enjoyed age-group rugby, it did a massive amount for me and is a great programme but now I can come in get a full pre-season under my belt and with Hooky away I can get involved a bit more in running the show.
“Last year I was developing my experience through games and this summer it is working on that conditioning side. I need to put size on and this is the first time I can really hammer that, even more so with the season put back and that extra time in the gym.”
Fast forward to October 16 in Newcastle and Burns could well be partnering new signing Willi Heinz at half-back.
While Burns still boasts that youthful exuberance the 28-year-old New Zealander boasts more than 50 Super Rugby caps for the Crusaders and has mixed it with some of the best.
Playing in the middle of an axis with All Black greats Kieran Read and Dan Carter is not the worst way of honing your skills and Burns hopes that know how will rub off.
He added: “He’s not training too much but from talking to him and seeing clips he looks like a quality player and I’m excited to see him play.
Hopefully he learnt a few things from Dan Carter and they will rub off on me. He seems like a really good guy and is working hard to get fit, whatever I could take from those guys would be great.”