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.
Scotland Ace Signs Contract Extension
One of Scotland’s key men has decided to put pen to paper on a new deal with his current club
The 27-year-old is included in Scotland’s Six Nations squad and has 22-caps to his name at the moment. Meanwhile at club-level Toolis has made over 100 appearances for Edinburgh since his debut in 2013.
Speaking on the new deal Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill admitted he is delighted to have the Brisbane-born lock on board for the foreseeable future.
“Ben is one of the most athletic locks in the league, while his ability and leadership at the lineout is key to the way we play. We are delighted to see him re-sign, and I’ve got no doubt that he will continue to be a big player for this club in the years to come,” he said to the club’s website.
The length of the deal have not been announced, but it is a boost for both club and country as his stock continues to rise.
Toolis will be hoping that he can continue his partnership with Grant Gilchrist in the upcoming Six Nations with the squad currently preparing to face Ireland in their opening game on February 1st.
Former Welsh Ace to Hang Up Boots
One of Wales’ former stars has confirmed that he will retire from rugby come the end of the current season
Former Wales back James Hook has announced that he will be calling time on his professional rugby career come the end of the current season.
Hook is contracted to the Ospreys, but with his deal set to end at the end of the campaign he has decided the time has come to pull the curtain on a professional career spanning 16 years.
“It’s sad but something I’m really looking forward to. It comes to everyone at some point and now it’s time for me. I’ve had lots of highlights, winning Grand Slam titles and Six Nations and going on the Lions tour in 2009. Then signing my first professional contract was a big moment for me. Growing up I always aspired to be a professional rugby player. You never think it’ll actually happen so when it did it really was amazing,” he said in a post on social media.
The 34-year old picked up a total of 81-caps for Wales to go along with his 148 appearances for the Ospreys.
Hook has admitted he hopes to continue his rugby journey off the pitch, but that he is also looking forward to having more time to spend with his family after such a long time on the playing field.
“I want to stay involved in the game, particularly working on the skills, like I do now with the young kickers and the age-grade sides, and I’m hoping to finish my level three coaching qualification. It’ll be nice to spend time with my family, my three young boys and my wife. It’s going to be sad not playing at the end of the season, but you’ve got to be positive and look on the bright side and I’m looking forward to what’s next,” he added.
As well as his rugby career Hook has also written a series of children’s books that are set to be released later this year and that could provide him with something else to venture into if they are successful.
However, for now he will be hoping that he can help the Ospreys turn around their disastrous season to date before he hangs his boots up for good.
Connacht Set to Lose Big Star
Connacht look set to without one of their key men next season according to reports as he appears set for a move
They are reporting that the former Rebels man is the Top 14 side’s preferred replacement for the departing Liam Gill, who will leave at the end of this season.
Connacht were keen to keep their players’ player of the year from last season and had entered contract talks to extend his deal past the original two years, but with talks stalling Lyon have come in with a reported offer of 300,000 euro a season which would be hard to refuse.
The 28-year-old would be a huge loss to the western province having been such a massive influence since his arrival in 2018.
However, more positive news for fans is that the back-rower is set to return from a knee injury this weekend against Toulouse, to help Connacht during a period where injuries have severely hampered them.
It is understood that Connacht would like to replace Fainga’a with another overseas star, but for now they will hope to get the most out of the Aussie between now and the end of the season.
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