Ulster Rugby is delighted to announce that fly-half Billy Burns has signed a two-year contract extension, keeping him at Kingspan Stadium until at least the summer of 2022.
Burns began his professional career as a 17-year-old at Gloucester, where he went on to make over 100 senior appearances for the Cherry and Whites before making the move to Ulster in the summer of 2018. Since then, he has cemented his place in the squad, amassing 28 appearances to date and contributing 54 points for the Province.
An exceptionally talented player, Burns quickly struck up a strong partnership with scrum-half John Cooney as Ulster’s first choice half-back pairing, and have already started together on 20 occasions. This season, Burns has started four of Ulster’s six games, including the home win over Cardiff when he captained the side for the first time.
Head Coach, Dan McFarland, said of the deal, “It is great news that Billy has committed to Ulster. He is still a young man who is desperate to keep learning and developing both as a player and athlete. He has already contributed hugely on the pitch throughout last year’s campaign and has demonstrated an excellent ability to lead a team. We’re all looking forward to Billy being a driving force in our group into the future.”
Burns commented on the extension,
“Since joining Ulster last summer, I’ve made it my home and have really enjoyed my time here. The support I’ve had has been incredible and we have a great group of players, so it was a no-brainer for me to extend my contract. Kingspan Stadium is a great place to play rugby and I’m really pleased that I’ve got at least another couple of years of that to look forward to.”
In injury news, it’s a bad update from the Ulster Medical department with several players set to spend time on the sidelines.
Jack McGrath is also due to undergo surgery for a thumb injury, and his availability to play will be monitored over the coming weeks.
Rob Lyttle sustained a shoulder injury, which will sideline him for an estimated 6-8 weeks.
Marcus Rea suffered a fractured jaw playing for Ballynahinch RFC. It is anticipated that he will return to play in approximately 6 weeks.
Double Injury Blow for Leinster
Leinster have been handed two big injuries to two of their key men as they head into the Christmas period
Leinster have confirmed that star fly-half Johnny Sexton has suffered a medial tear in his right knee, while Ronan Kelleher has also had an injury set-back.
Sexton, who went off injured during Leinster’s 43-16 victory over Northampton Saints last Saturday, underwent scans on his knee yesterday and saw a specialist who revealed that he will miss between 6 and 8 weeks of action.
However, his injury causes a slight selection headache for new head coach Andy Farrell, who at this moment is without Sexton and Joey Carbery, but the latter is expected to return from injury later this month.
Although Sexton’s injury is a big blow, it could open the door once again for Connacht’s Jack Carty to get a run in the Irish line-up, while Leinster teammate Ross Byrne will take the reigns at club-level and with the form he is currently in, will fancy his chances of getting a call up to the national team having missed out on the Rugby World Cup squad.
The injury also means that Sexton will miss all three of Leinster’s remaining Champions Cup pool fixtures as well as their three inter-provincial derbies over the coming month, with Byrne expected to be backed up by younger brother Harry and Ciaran Frawley.
Although the bad news for both Leinster and Ireland doesn’t stop there with upcoming star hooker Ronan Kelleher expected to be side-lined for a period with a possible fractured hand, which he is thought to have suffered during last weekend’s game.
It is thought that Kelleher was in poll position to earn his first call-up to the Irish side for the Six Nations after a blistering start to the season, but this may now dampen his hopes.
Sean Cronin is believed to be nearing full-fitness once more, which would be a boost for both club and country as he could slot in seamlessly.
The injuries are piling-up for Leinster, who will also miss centre Joe Tomane for the same period as Sexton through a hamstring injury, while Rory O’Loughlin will miss this weekend’s game with injury.
James Ryan is also making his way through the back to play protocols after taking a knock to the head against the Saints, but could feature this Saturday.
Leinster will hope that their squad can cope with the set-backs as they head into this weekend’s home fixture against Northampton, with younger stars now having the chance to lay a marker as the province look to make it 11 wins from 11 at the start of the season.
Sexton to Miss Northampton Return Game
Leinster fly-half Johnny Sexton is set to miss this weekend’s home game against Northampton Saints and there are further injury concerns for the Irish province
The Irish-star went down awkwardly in a tackle early in the second-half of Saturday’s 43-16 victory over the Saints and was replaced by Ross Byrne immediately and will now see a specialist later today for further scans on the injury.
The 34-year-olds fitness uncertainty will come as a massive concern for new Ireland head coach Andy Farrell, with the Six Nations edging closer and with him set to take charge of his first training camp before the New Year.
As well as his skill-set, many expect Sexton to take over the captaincy from recently retired Rory Best, with his experience being a key component to the Irish side.
The good news for his province is that Ross Byrne has been in fine form so far this season after his Rugby World Cup omission from the Irish squad and has back-up from younger brother Harry as well as Ciaran Frawley, with Ross likely to take the starting spot this weekend.
However, Leinster will be without backs Joe Tomane and Rory O’Loughlin this weekend, with the former set to be side-lined for up to eight weeks with a hamstring injury following a brilliant opening to the season, while the latter is suffering from a shoulder problem.
In the forwards James Ryan is undergoing the return to play protocols after taking a knock to the head during Saturday’s win.
Leinster and Ireland will hope that Sexton makes a speedy recovery, but for the boys in blue their eyes will be firmly set on this weekend’s fixture which could see them all but qualify for the knock-out stages of the competition and they will want to continue their perfect start to the season with an incredible 10 wins from 10.
Zebre Star Receives Small Ban for Biting
Zebre might have claimed a famous away win in the PRO14 last weekend, but it’s not all rosy for the Italian team after one of their players has been handed a ban for biting, although it’s shorter than most would expect
The 24-year-old was expected to be handed a lengthy ban for an act of foul play that is seriously frowned upon in the sport, but after initially being given a 12-week ban it was cut in half due to his previous disciplinary record, his admission of guilt and his conduct throughout the process.
The four-time capped Italian’s ban comes only a week after the exact same ban that was handed down to La Rochelle’s Pierre Bourgarit, who was caught eye-gouging Sale’s Tom Curry in a Champions Cup fixture.
Another one of the worst offences in the game and it was reduced from 12 to six weeks, much for the same reasons as Giammarioli.
Some fans and ex-players will criticise the decision, as it appears a much softer result than in days gone by for offences that could have caused serious harm to opponents.
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