Ulster fly-half Billy Burns is excited about going head-to-head with Ireland and Leinster legend Johnny Sexton when the two provinces face off in the PRO14.
Sexton is a genuine great of Irish rugby having steered the ship from fly-half over the past decade, helping them to the 2018 Grand Slam and two more Six Nations titles.
Burns is one of those looking to take his national team shirt, however, after impressing for the Belfast-based outfit in the league.
The former Gloucester and England U20 player also earned three caps in the Autumn Nations Cup, being part of the squad which finished the competition in third place, and the 26-year-old is relishing the chance of taking on Sexton.
Top of the game
“He’s been at the top of the game for as long as I can remember,” Burns told reporters. “He’s achieved a huge amount and when I was down in camp I tried to learns as much as I could from him.
“[Leinster] are blessed with a number of outstandingly talented out-halves to it’ll just be about trying to get the better of them.
“I got to know how those guys play a little bit more from being down in camp but equally so did they with me so it probably balances itself out.”
Ulster are currently unbeaten in the PRO14 having won 10 out of 10 but this is arguably their biggest challenge of the campaign.
Leinster have secured the league title three years in a row and are stacked with Ireland representatives, but Burns sees that as a chance to stake his claim for the national team jersey.
“It’s definitely an opportunity to go against guys who you’re fighting with to get into that squad,” he said.
“I think you’d ask anybody in the provinces, you want to play for Ireland, you want to be in that international squad now so there’s no better opportunity in these games to go up against people that you’re sort of fighting against for a position.”
Lovely delicate attacking kick from Ulster's Billy Burns to tee up Ethan McIlroy's try against Munster.
— Murray Kinsella (@Murray_Kinsella) January 4, 2021
Burns has become renowned for his kicking ability out of hand, often setting up tries with cross-field efforts or dinks over the top, but the fly-half believes that he is developing a varied skill set.
He added: “I want teams to look at the way I play and see an all-court game, that’s what I’m trying to work on at the moment.
“Anybody in any position is trying to be as unpredictable as they can be. If I can add a couple of strings to my bow, whether that be a running game or whatever, then that’s going to help.
“It’s definitely somewhere that I’ve worked on and the coaches here have pushed me to improve on.
“I’ve always wanted to take my running game to another level and I think it’s just having the confidence to do it at the right time and when it’s right for the team to do it as well.”