NIK SIMON - EXCLUSIVE: Despite having one year remaining on his contract, Burns has been squeezed out of Welford Road to act as the bargaining chip for George Ford in a swap deal with Bath.
Freddie Burns cracked a trademark joke when he realised he was wearing his own black jumper instead of branded Leicester training gear for his media duties.
‘Am I meant to be in Tigers kit?’ asked the fly-half. ‘They took it off me! They took it off me quicker than they took my contract off me!’
Burns is renowned for harmless jokes but this had a cutting punchline.
Freddie Burns could be about to play his final game for Leicester against Wasps on Saturday
Despite having one year remaining on his contract, Burns has been squeezed out of Welford Road to act as the bargaining chip for George Ford in a swap deal with Bath.
‘It was disappointing,’ said Burns. ‘I was just told that the club wanted to sign George and there was an option for me to go to Bath on the side.
‘Seeing how the club put so much effort into getting him here, I didn’t see us competing on an even playing field. It was like the club deeming me not good enough. It was quite a bitter pill to swallow.
‘I really saw coming here as a long-term move but as the sport grows, we’re going to see more transfers like it. I’m just happy now to be going to a decent club.’
The fly-half will move to Bath at the end of the season but is out to guide Tigers to the final
Burns moves to The Rec as part of the deal which will see George Ford move to Tigers
Burns’ contract was worth as much as the paper it was written on.
He leaves Welford Road as a crowd favourite, having helped steer Leicester to their play-off against Wasps.
It was a shambolic start to the season but the 27-year-old is determined to prove a point to the club’s powerbrokers during his final days. ‘The fact that I played pretty well towards the end is probably due to the move,’ said Burns.
‘It’s released the shackles. I’ve tried to be honest and not clock off early. I’ve gone, “Let’s chuck everything at it, play the way I want to play and see where it gets me”.’
Defeat at the Ricoh Arena will spell the end of Burns’ Leicester career.
Wasps are undefeated at home in the league since 2015 and, having finished 18 points clear of Leicester in the table, are favourites to progress to next week’s final. But these are uncharted territories and Burns hopes Leicester’s big-game experience could seal an upset against the great entertainers.
‘I came to Leicester from Gloucester, where we had quite a young core,’ said Burns. ‘We were immature. A lot of guys were starting their career. Here I was surrounded by seasoned internationals who were used to winning week in, week out.
Burns still had a year to run on his contract at Welford Road when the move was agreed
‘As a player, that can come as a little bit of a shock when you’ve been chilling at Gloucester and not really worried about the result. It took a while for me to find my feet here where those results are demanded. You have to stand up and be counted.
‘Now it’s the business end. Wasps’ back line is pretty special. Jimmy Gopperth is at the heart of everything. They’re top of the Premiership for a reason. They’re an attacking threat but if we get our game-plan right, we can cause them some problems.’
With three different head coaches already in 2017, a date at the Twickenham final would be an unlikely outcome for Leicester after a season of hiring and firing. Burns’ exit was signed off before Matt O’Connor took over in March, but the latest head coach believes his departing No 10 could soon be back in an England jersey.
Matt O’Connor believes Burns could soon find himself back in the England set-up
‘It’s a little disappointing that I won’t have the opportunity to work with Freddie going forward because I think he has a lot of growth in his game,’ said O’Connor.
‘He’s a great lad, full of banter, and he’s good enough to play Test rugby without a doubt.’
Only time will tell whether Burns has the last laugh.
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