Gloucester Rugby: Freddie Burns lives dream in head-to-head with Jonny Wilkinson
WHEN Jonny Wilkinson dropped that World Cup-winning goal, Freddie Burns could only dream of following suit.
Ten years on, Burns' idol has told him to seize England's number ten shirt.
Burns had only just hit his teens when he watched England seal World Cup glory at the Oldfield Old Boys club house in Bath.
Now he has stepped into England's Elite Player Squad, and took on 34-year-old Wilkinson for the first time on Friday night.
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Toulon might have overwhelmed Gloucester 42-17 at Stade Mayol, and Wilkinson might have got the better of that first encounter with Burns.
But the master took some time afterwards to lend a few words of encouragement to a very willing pupil.
"To play against Jonny was great, and to have a little chat with him afterwards was brilliant," Burns explained.
"He passed on some advice, and to have that experience of going up against him but also him having a little word to me, it's fantastic.
"I was 13 when he popped that drop-goal over, so to play against someone like that – I know it's a cliché but it's something you dream of.
"I was at Oldfield rugby club with all my family to watch the 2003 World Cup final.
"My dad was chairman at the time, and he organised a breakfast at the club, it was a great day.
"Playing against him is something I'll never forget.
"He's just a different class of player, and they've got a lot of them at Toulon!
"To play against him and the likes of Matt Giteau, it was great.
"Jonny told me just to be patient, keep working on your game, don't try to force things, instead let things happen for you and just keep pushing.
"He complimented me on a good summer tour which was nice, and if you want anyone to praise you it would be Jonny Wilkinson.
"He took the time out to speak to me and help me on my way at the end of the game, and that was great.
"We're a little bit different in our approaches, in that he's very methodical.
"I work as hard as anyone else and push myself to improve.
"But I never want to get as caught up in everything as I think Jonny probably did at one point.
"I'm intent on enjoying my rugby career at the same time as working extremely hard for it.
"The best way to enjoy it is by winning, though. I'll have to keep training that little bit harder to keep improving, and that's what I'll do.
"Jonny's the ultimate professional and someone you can only look up to in the way that he does things."
Frustrated by Gloucester's six try to three defeat, Burns said the Cherry and Whites can still use it to their advantage as they step up their season preparations.
He continued: "It's always disappointing to lose, but sometimes you have to step back and look at the bigger picture.
"We had a great opportunity to go out there against the Heineken Cup champions and put a marker down.
"Unfortunately we were chasing the game for the first 20 minutes.
"But, like Nigel Davies said, it's about building for us, and that really exposes the chinks in our armour and how we've got to get better.
"Hopefully we can build on a good 60 minutes there – but we've certainly got to start sharper."