Billy Burns scored Ireland's first try yesterday. Gary Carr/INPHO

'I’m hungry to get more opportunities' - Burns aims to build on first Ireland start

The 26-year-old Ulster out-half had some nice touches before being forced off injured.

BILLY BURNS CERTAINLY picked up where he had left off, with a first-minute chip over the top of the Georgian defence yesterday echoing his clever assist for Jacob Stockdale’s try at Twickenham the weekend before.

It was one of a few nice touches from the Ulster out-half as Ireland built a 20-7 half-time lead against the Georgians that certainly could have been more.

Unfortunately for Burns, who scored Ireland’s first try on his first Test start, he lasted only five minutes of the second half as the groin injury he had sustained in the warm-up before the Autumn Nations Cup clash worsened.

“I didn’t feel like it was going to affect my performance,” said Burns of playing through the pain.

“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.

“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.”

It was a shame for Ireland to lose the creative presence of Burns, particularly given that replacement out-half Ross Byrne was unable to impact the game in any notable fashion. 

Burns was naturally frustrated that Ireland couldn’t kick on in the second half of their 23-10 win over the Georgians but he was relatively pleased with his contribution before that.

“I enjoyed the first half,” said Burns. “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. When we look back, we will say that there were a couple of times where we could have maybe… obviously, we got called up over the line and Stu [McCloskey]‘s try for a forward pass.

“If those things go our way then we are looking at a different scoreline. But on a whole, I thought there were some positives to be taken out of it, for sure.”

Burns said it was “a bit too soon” to say if he will be available for the play-off clash with Scotland on Saturday in Dublin but he will hope to recover in time to provide back up to the returning Johnny Sexton.

billy-burns-kicks-a-penalty Burns was forced off five minutes into the second half. Gary Carr / INPHO Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

The Ulster man’s promising cameos for Ireland do appear to have pushed him past Byrne in the out-half pecking order. 

Burns says it has been a big step up to Test rugby in his first three caps but he is loving the challenge.

“I’ve enjoyed being involved, I’ve enjoyed my experiences, I’ve loved training with this group, I’ve loved training with this group of coaches,” said Burns.

“I feel like it’s added another dimension to my game. I feel like I now understand what’s required at international level.”

“In terms of my personal performance, taking away the England game because there wasn’t really much in that game for me to go on and do, but from Wales to this today, I feel like I’m improving more and more.

“I’m enjoying my time at out-half whenever I get the opportunity, whether it’s off the bench or starting, and I’m hungry to get more opportunities. 

“I know 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.

“So I think it’s been going in the right direction but still plenty to come hopefully.”

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