Ulster have announced the capture of Billy Burns bringing the province’s total incoming transfers to five ahead of the start of the season.
Burns, 24, joins on a two-year deal and is able to play for Ireland which would have given the move a major boost in the eyes of the IRFU.
He made 101 appearances at Gloucester and scoring 304 points. During his time with the Cherry and Whites, he lifted the Challenge Cup in 2016 as well as the less coveted Premiership Sevens in 2013. This season he scored two tries in 29 matches.
Younger brother of Freddie, Billy featured in the 2014 U20 World Championship campaign for England as they recorded their second title.
With Danny Cipriani joing Gloucester and Ulster requiring a replacement for Paddy Jackson, it was the right time for Billy to part ways with David Humphreys in the West Country.
Billy will undoubtedly provide competition for the out half jersey but he has featured at fullback for Gloucester and with the departures of Charles Piutau and Jared Payne, it’s likely that we will see him fill in there at some point during the season.
Johnny McPhillips made positive contribution after the departure of Christian Lealiifano in January and with Angus Curtis getting game time towards the end of the season, Burns will have a fight on his hands if he is to nail down that jersey.
Michael Lowry was injured for most of last season but made a positive impact in Ireland’s final match of U20 World Championship against Japan. He is a talented player and is also waiting to stake a claim for Ulster’s 10 shirt.
I still don’t think we’ve seen the best of McPhillips and I hope that the signing of Burns does not severely limit his playing time. Obviously for Burns, he has a point to prove and, while unlikely, it is possible that a run of starts and an exceptional season would see him catapulted into the Ireland set up ahead of the World Cup.
It looks quite positive for Ulster on the injury front as he has suffered just one significant injury (that I could find):
March 2016 – serious knee injury against Wasps ended his season. Returned for the start of the following season.