Callard backs Burns for England

Burnley and Pendle Citizen: Freddie Burns put in an indifferent display for England Saxons against Ireland Wolfhounds Freddie Burns put in an indifferent display for England Saxons against Ireland Wolfhounds

Freddie Burns can still force his way back into RBS 6 Nations reckoning despite spurning a match-winning opportunity in England Saxons' 14-8 Ireland Wolfhounds defeat, according to Jon Callard.

Saxons head coach Callard backed Burns to keep the pressure on senior England fly-half front-runners Owen Farrell and George Ford.

Gloucester playmaker Burns struck the post with a conversion and a penalty to miss out on five points, and then passed into touch as the Saxons closed in on an overtime winning try.

England claimed an intercept try through Bath's Anthony Watson, but Ireland squeezed home thanks to scores from Isaac Boss and Ian Madigan.

England head coach Stuart Lancaster sent Burns into Saxons action at club ground Kingsholm to help the 23-year-old build confidence after his two-month deliberation over leaving Gloucester, with Leicester his expected summer destination.

Lancaster can choose between Burns and Northampton's Stephen Myler to fill the third Six Nations fly-half berth, but Callard does not view Burns' Saxons showing as a setback.

"Absolutely this game is a step in the right direction for Freddie," said Callard.

"Let's not underestimate Freddie's ability, he's not a bad player, far from it.

"He's a very talented individual, and we all know you have dips in form and things don't go your way.

"I'm pleased with his contribution, I think he's been immense this week.

"He and (captain) Calum Clark have done wonders in leading this group."

Burns fired a pass into touch in added time as the Saxons hunted a winning score, after Elliot Day was hauled up short of the tryline.

That signalled the final whistle, allowing Ireland to breathe easy and toast their resolute defence.

The Wolfhounds were relieved not to capitulate and mirror Ireland's last-gasp 24-22 autumn Test series defeat to New Zealand.

Callard said the Saxons had plenty of chances to claim victory in the second half, and backed Burns as ready for a step back to the full squad if Lancaster comes calling.

"We would all want him to have won it, everybody would to be honest with you," said Callard.

"It's one of those things: let's not hold it against him because it could have happened to anyone.

"I'm personally pleased with his contribution and his form.

"We had four great opportunities in the second half, four great opportunities, from sustained pressure.

"It's a credit to the lads that when Ireland turned it over and kicked it down our throats, Rob Miller set off on a counter attack and we were a whisker away from winning it.

"I think potentially out of this group there are numerous options to go forward into the full squad, whether that will happen next week, across the course of the Six Nations or the summer tour, I can't say.

"But I think if you come back in two to three years' time, this could be a really good marking-point for English rugby.

"We were very aggressive with selection in terms of pushing young players."

Madigan's two conversions, try and solid all-round showing were enough to drive Ireland home, with the visitors far superior at the contact area.

Ireland Wolfhounds head coach Anthony Foley praised his side for their battling qualities in grinding to victory, especially holding out in the final stages.

"We had to hang in there towards the end, but it's a credit to the players that they did," said Foley.

"They just stuck at it in fairness to them, right until the end.

"They knew the week's work was on the line, and they didn't let it go to waste."

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