Ireland confident Billy Burns can handle pressure of filling Johnny Sexton boots

Ireland fly-half Billy Burns will not be fazed by the daunting task of filling the void left by injured captain Johnny Sexton, according to scrum coach John Fogarty.

Burns has been given an opportunity to stake a claim for the Irish number 10 jersey during Sunday’s Autumn Nations clash with Georgia.

The 26-year-old’s full international debut comes with long-serving Sexton in the twilight of his career and currently sidelined by a hamstring problem.

Fogarty is confident Ulster man Burns – who came off the bench in the recent win over Wales and last weekend’s loss to England – can make the step up.

“With regard to him being able to handle the pressures, I don’t think we would have thrown him out if we didn’t think he could,” said Fogarty.

“I don’t think that (deputising for Sexton) is crossing Billy’s mind. It’s certainly something we’re not worrying about.

“Johnny has helped during the week, as he always does. He’s delivered some really good stuff during the week for the team.

Johnny Sexton's hamstring injury has given opportunities to both Billy Burns and Ross Byrne
Johnny Sexton’s hamstring injury has given opportunities to both Billy Burns and Ross Byrne (Brian Lawless/PA)

“And Billy has led the team and controlled the week really well from his part. We’re looking forward to playing him and I’m sure Billy is looking forward to playing too.”

Burns’ maiden start follows an impressive cameo at Twickenham after he replaced fellow understudy fly-half Ross Byrne.

He has been selected as part of an experimental line-up, which shows nine changes from the 18-7 loss in London.

Burns’ Ulster team-mates Rob Herring, Iain Henderson, Stuart McCloskey and Jacob Stockdale are also included in the starting XV, a factor Fogarty hopes will prove beneficial.

⚪️ 𝗜𝗥𝗘𝗟𝗔𝗡𝗗 𝗧𝗘𝗔𝗠 𝗡𝗘𝗪𝗦 🟢

5️⃣ Ulster players have been included in the @IrishRugby starting line-up for Sunday's #GuinnessSeries clash with Georgia.@JacobStockdale 🔥@Stuart_Mc12 👊@BillyBurns10 🎯@HendersonIain 💪@robert_herring2 🤙

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— Ulster Rugby (@UlsterRugby) November 26, 2020

“Billy’s prepped really well. He’s got a few familiar faces beside him out there,” continued Fogarty.

“I think this week is about our team performance and Billy making sure he plays his part in that.

“He’s been great in and around camp. As a person, he’s come in and started really, really well. He’s been playing here for quite a while now.

“He controlled things really well during the week, he’s a good communicator. We’re excited to see how he goes.”

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