Gloucester Rugby: Freddie Burns - let's win derby for Mike Tindall
FREDDIE Burns owes Mike Tindall a big debt of gratitude – and is determined to start paying it off at Bath tomorrow night.
When Gloucester centre Tindall joined Bath straight from Wakefield's Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Burns was just seven years old.
Some 16 years later, tomorrow the duo will line up in Gloucester's midfield at The Recreation Ground, a place that holds special memories for both England internationals.
Gloucester fly-half Burns credits Tindall with helping him develop into a top-class playmaker.
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And as Tindall gears up for his 150th competitive Cherry and Whites bow, Burns is ready to help England's most-capped centre make it a night to remember.
Bath-born Burns used to jump the fence at The Rec, dreaming of one day turning out for his beloved Blue, Black and Whites.
Combative centre Tindall was one of his first rugby heroes, and now, 22-year-old Burns still cannot quite believe the duo are team-mates.
Gearing up for tomorrow's pivotal Premiership clash (kick-off 8pm), fit-again Burns paid tribute to 34-year-old Tindall's staying power, racking up eight years at Gloucester after the same number at Bath.
Burns explained: "You can't fail to get excited for Bath-Gloucester.
"I was born two miles from the stadium, I used to sneak into games, jump over the fence and stand in the crowd and watch these West Country derbies.
"Playing in these games at The Rec is something I always dreamed of as a kid – but I never really thought it would be in a cherry and white shirt!
"A lot's changed since then and I am absolutely delighted to be with Gloucester now.
"I just want to do my best for the club, because I know how much it means to the supporters.
"It's a huge achievement for Tins.
"Going back to those days when I used to watch Bath as a boy, Tins was playing for Bath back then.
"To be playing alongside him on his 150th cap, it's an honour for me to play there too and be part of that.
"He's someone who has helped me massively in my career, so it would be great to be able to make it a memorable day for him."
Gloucester can register their third-straight Premiership double over bitter rivals Bath tomorrow – but will have to hit back from the humiliation of Bath's 32-5 Kingsholm triumph on February 2.
That LV=Cup hammering might not have affected Gloucester's league standing, but Burns admits it has considerably dented Kingsholm pride.
At The Rec the crowd are so close to the pitch that the players can hear every chant, quip and snarl from the fervent fans.
Some players will try to shut it out – but Burns will try to turn it to his advantage.
In Gloucester's 14-11 league win at The Rec this time last season, Burns missed a straightforward penalty.
He said the only way to stop the errors mounting up is to laugh them off and clear the mind.
He continued: "There's always a different atmosphere to West Country derbies, there's always that little bit more venom in the chants and the 'eeyores' from the crowd.
"So as a player you've got to relish that environment, and I quite enjoy the fact we'll be down there and the majority of the crowd will be against us.
"We'll have a big travelling contingent, don't get me wrong, but it's 23 boys in the squad looking after each other, and it's a great atmosphere to play in.
"As players you can do one of two things: you can shut it out and stay focused, or you can embrace it and let it spur your performance.
"And I'm definitely the sort of player to let it all in – you try to milk the atmosphere to your advantage.
"I don't mind a bit of banter with the crowd which is nice.
"I'll just relish it, and hopefully if we're playing well then it's all a bit rosier.
"Each to their own: some boys will want to let it all go, some players will shut everything down if they make a mistake and try to shake it off.
"If I make a mistake, I am furious with myself, but I try to laugh it off – because that's how I get over mistakes, get past them and regain composure.
"Last year at The Rec I missed a kick in front of the posts right on the edge of the 22, so you can't let it eat you up, you've got to move on quickly."
Burns believes Gloucester must harness the hurt from that 32-5 Bath humbling – but not be consumed by it.
He added: "We were dominated in every aspect, and it was embarrassing.
"But the boys know they have a chance to put it right.
"Nigel played it down straight after the game, because of our massive task at Northampton.
"He's brought it up again this week, he's played it right and now everyone is fired up for tomorrow.
"It's great motivation, but it won't be a driving factor on the day."