Ulster sign Gloucester outhalf Billy Burns on two-year-deal
Irish-qualified player made over 100 appearances for English side
Ulster have signed Gloucester outhalf Billy Burns on a two-year deal. Photograph: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images
Ulster Rugby have moved to solve their problems at outhalf by signing Billy Burns on a two-year deal from Gloucester.
The province have been without an experienced number 10 since the departure of Christian Lealiifano at the end of January, with former Ireland underage international Johnny McPhillips making his debut in February while John Cooney has also been switched on occasion from scrumhalf.
Paddy Jackson, the long-time Ulster first choice, had his contract revoked in April following an IRFU review. Last March, Jackson and fellow Ulster player Stuart Olding were acquitted of raping the same woman in June 2016 with Jackson also cleared of sexual assault. Jackson subsequently moved to Perpignan.
The IRFU had attempted to address the situation by moving Leinster’s Joey Carbery to Belfast but the 22-year-old opted instead to join Munster on a two-year deal.
Burns (24), a younger brother of England and Bath outhalf Freddie, has made over 100 appearances for Gloucester since making his debut as a 17-year-old and completed his move on Monday. He is Irish qualified.
“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,” he said. “The Ulster squad is brimming with established and developing talent, and it will be exciting for me to challenge myself in a different environment.
Bryn Cunningham, Ulster’s operations director, added: “We’re delighted that Billy has signed with us for the next two seasons. It has not been an easy process to find someone with the requisite abilities to add real value to our squad for this season, but thankfully we’ve come to an agreement with Gloucester and have been able to bring Billy across.
“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.”