Freddie Burns has revealed the full extent of the emotional turmoil he is enduring as he grapples with deciding whether to stay at Gloucester, his club of six years, or join a higher-placed Premiership rival in the hope of furthering his career.
Fly-half Burns, 23, was captured by TV cameras in tears after his side’s recent home loss to Leicester – a defeat that left Gloucester in tenth.
Leicester are one of the sides being linked to Burns, with Tigers boss Richard Cockerill openly admitting the player is on their radar. And England man Burns admits mounting speculation over his future is now affecting his club form.
“It was a tough night against Leicester and I wasn’t expecting it to be aired the way it was,” Burns told The Rugby Paper. “When you have a bad game you just want to get into the changing room and have a bit of time to yourself in there.
“It was a combination of things. Everyone knows my contract is up at the end of the season and there are decisions to be made. That’s been weighing heavily on my mind over the last few weeks, as well as Gloucester not going very well.
“It was my frustration coming out. I think I’m getting close to resolving it but the minute you think that, you wake up the next morning and your mind sways the other way. But I need to resolve it because it’s affecting my performances.
“It sounds stupid to say this when you’re a young lad playing professional rugby, but it’s the toughest month of my life. It’s a huge decision that will have a massive impact and it’s been ten times harder than I thought it would be.”
It is widely assumed that the future of Burns is linked to that of Leicester captain Toby Flood, also out of contract next summer and who has been considering options ranging from staying put to lucrative offers from France and Japan.
Burns will not be going overseas, of that much he is certain. But he admits that there is more than one English club interested in acquiring his services, which could point to top end interest or a bid from newly cash-enriched London Irish.
Either way, Burns insists he will do what is best for him and his fledgling England career, which went into abeyance during the autumn Tests.
“There’s a lot of rumours about clubs I’m talking to, but in terms of Floody, what he and Leicester go through is not affecting me,” Burns said. “There are no foreign clubs involved, just English, but with the World Cup being just over a year away I want to give myself the best opportunity of being involved and being the best player I can be – those are the things I’m weighing up.
“It’s 50:50 at the minute and I get frustrated with myself because one minute I’m thinking about life after Gloucester, then the next morning I think I want to stay. I’m chasing my tail a bit at the moment but I have to make a decision.”
England boss Stuart Lancaster will watch on anxiously as one of his stars goes through the agonies. But Burns insists he will not allow the saga to drag on much longer, knowing that his place in England’s Six Nations squad is at stake.
Burns added: “In terms of England, I got capped last year on the back of Gloucester being in the top half of the table and playing well myself. Everyone knows how Gloucester’s season has gone but I still really feel there’s a smashing group of players here who are on the verge of creating something special – and that’s what’s making things so difficult for me to decide my future.
“Hopefully I can put it to bed and concentrate on my club form with Gloucester, then keep knocking on England’s door for the Six Nations.”