Tigers director of rugby says Burns’ game would suit Leicester after Kingsholm confirmed the fly-half would leave
By Mick Cleary, Rugby Union Correspondent
On the day that Gloucester confirmed the departure of Freddie Burns, Richard Cockerill, the Leicester director of rugby, admitted that the fly-half would suit the Tigers’ style of play.
Neither club would officially confirm that Burns will arrive at Welford Road next season as a replacement for the France-bound Toby Flood, but it has been an open secret for several weeks that Burns will be in Leicester colours in September.
Cockerill admires the 23-year-old, stressing also that the club have to make the right decision over such a pivotal role.
“Having the right fly-half for your team is vital,” Cockerill said. “Burns is not dissimilar to Floody.
“Toby stays very flat on the gain line and attacks the whole time. We are a different side without him, as New Zealand are without Dan Carter.
“If Burns were to come here, I would like to think his game would be a good fit.
“He has always played well against Leicester. He is very spiky and instinctive.
“We are not a club that fanfares signings. We don’t need the kudos of a big announcement.
“We want to get players here and work with them.”
Stuart Lancaster, the England head coach, had several talks with Flood about the move to Toulouse on the grounds that it would rule him out of representing England with immediate effect.
Cockerill, too, tried to persuade Flood to carry on at Leicester, and acknowledged that he would be a hard act to follow.
“You would want to keep Toby and he will be very difficult to replace,” Cockerill said.
“But we were saying the same when Andy Goode left here six years ago and Toby arrived from Newcastle after being sat in the shadow of Jonny Wilkinson for so long.
“But Toby developed hugely here and we would expect the same of whoever comes here.
“They will have to compete for their place.
“It is one thing being in the team, it is another thing being good in that team.
“The objective is not just to make the side. You have to be in that team and help it win.
“Everyone is under pressure for their spots here. That’s the way Leicester is.”
Burns’s form has slumped as speculation has mounted over his departure.
Gloucester have dropped him to the bench while Lancaster will play him for the Saxons against Ireland Wolfhounds next week rather than have him in the front-line squad preparing for the opening of the Six Nations against France in Paris on Feb 1.
Burns, who has three caps, admitted that he had been out of sorts.
“I have had a lot of things to consider regarding my future in recent months and it has not been easy,” he said, while pledging his full commitment to Gloucester until the summer.
“I am still a Gloucester player and will be giving it 100 per cent, as I always have done whenever I pull on the shirt.
“Whatever happens in the future, it all started for me here at Gloucester.”
The club finally broke their silence on Burns on Tuesday.
“Attention has turned to Freddie’s situation and, despite lengthy dialogue, we have decided to part company,” Nigel Davies, Gloucester’s director of rugby, said.
Cockerill is not perturbed by the drop-off in Burns’ game.
“Speculation over people’s contracts is unsettling but good players always come through that,” he said.
He was also stoic about the fact that George Ford, the Bath fly-half who has just been promoted to the England squad, left Leicester only last summer after becoming frustrated at having to understudy Toby Flood.
“You can’t look into a crystal ball and worry about things 12 months down the road,” Cockerill said.
“I was not going to leave Toby out of the team just because a 19-year-old wanted first-team rugby, otherwise you’d have every 19-year-old saying they wanted to play or they would leave.
“It was George’s decision to go and that is absolutely fine.
“It has been a good decision for him and, of course, if he had stayed we would not be looking for a No 10 now.
“But if players want to go, like George or Toby, or whoever, they will make their choice.
“That is the way human nature is.
“It does not take a genius either to recognise that if a player has not opened negotiations about re-signing his contract by Jan 1, it means he is having a look around. There is nothing wrong with that.”
Leicester have locks Ed Slater and Graham Kitchener fit and available for selection for their crucial Heineken Cup pool match against Ulster at Welford Road on Saturday.