Billy Burns provides silver lining to gloomy Ireland display
Outhalf’s understanding with Jacob Stockdale against Georgia a cause of optimism
Ireland vs Georgia: Ireland’s Billy Burns celebrates with Hugo Keenan after scoring a try. Photograph: Inpho
As the mist descended on a worryingly blunt Irish display one of the few bright sparks to emerge from the gloom was the performance of Billy Burns in his first test start at outhalf.
Taking the ball to the line, mixing his game up, scoring a neatly-taken try with a rare move of craft inside the Georgian 22 when linking with Chris Farrell by holding his depth, Burns also demonstrated his understanding with Jacob Stockdale as they produced width on the Irish attacks.
The pity was that he had to depart with a groin strain early in the second-half which, particularly given the six-day turnaround, must make him doubtful for next Saturday’s third place play-off against Scotland, with the player himself saying it was “probably a bit too soon to tell at the moment.”
“I felt it a little bit in the warm-up, got through the first half okay and then struggled to get back going in the second half. Listen, I’ll leave it to the medical team at the moment. We will obviously see how we go over the next 24 hours, but fingers crossed it’s not too bad, but it was enough to make me come off for the start of the second half.”
On another day one ventures Burns might not have risked it, but he said: “I didn’t feel like it was going to affect my performance. If I felt like it was sore enough that I couldn’t do my job for the team or perform, then I would have pulled out.
“But I didn’t feel like it was enough to pull out of the game. I got through the warm-up fine and it was literally a case that it sort of gradually started to get worse. It got to a point where I was probably struggling to function and that was the time to pull me off.”
As for his own performance, Burns said: “I enjoyed the first half. I think there were times where we stretched Georgia and put them under some pressure.
“We got some good pay out of our kicking game. But yeah, there are still plenty of opportunities missed. Obviously we got called up over the line and Stu’s try was unfortunate for a forward pass.
“If those things go our way then we are looking at a different scoreline. But on the whole, I thought there was some positives to be taken out of it, for sure.”
First three games in green
Burns believes Farrell’s description of the team going through growing pains is a good way of putting things.
“Definitely for me coming into the environment it’s understanding things need to be done in a slightly different way compared to what they do at provincial level. It’s probably a balance of field position and attacking and we’re probably still just in the process of getting that right. I think we’re definitely seeing improvements and guys are on board. It’s just about now putting that onto the pitch.
“Listen, for parts of that game today I thought we executed the game plan and the way we wanted to attack really well but again it needs to be full 80-minute performances and we’re not quite doing that . . . hopefully we’re adapting and learning and can get better and better as we go.”
Looking back on his first three games in an Ireland jersey, Burns said: “I’ve enjoyed being involved, I’ve enjoyed my experiences . . . I feel like I now understand what’s required at international level.
“In terms of my personal performance I think, taking away the England game because there wasn’t really much in that game for me to go on and do, there wasn’t too many involvements, but from Wales to then this today, I feel like I’m improving more and more.
“I’m enjoying my time in the 10 shirt whenever I get the opportunity, whether it’s off the bench or starting, and I’m hungry to get more opportunities. I know, and I said it after the Wales game, that my personal performance is going to have to improve again if I want to stay in this side but I think as long as I can see that progression and I’m working hard on the training pitch then I can get there.”