Gloucester Rugby: Freddie Burns ready for Bath battle after England release
FOCUSED Freddie Burns is ready to set his England ambitions aside for now and lead Gloucester to victory on Bath's blooded battleground, writes Steven Impey.
The 23-year-old was released from England's elite playing squad on Tuesday ahead of a titanic autumn challenge against world rugby's Antipodean arsenal.
But the boy from Bath who became Gloucester's first-choice fly-half is eager to set a marker down for the Cherry and Whites at The Rec tonight and move himself into contention for England a week tomorrow.
He said: "I think I would be lying if I said that England wasn't in the back of my mind. The Australia game is next week so you are aware of it but you have got to try and stay focused and Gloucester is the main aim.
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"It was good to get back in the England camp and meet up with the boys. Obviously I haven't played much recently so it would be good to get some game time under my belt and hopefully play well.
"It is not ideal getting released because you can read into things, but I am told the squad won't get chosen until next Tuesday so hopefully this is another opportunity to stake a claim for the England shirt.
"As a player you are more aware of where you are form wise. I have not been too happy with the way I have played so far this year.
"I have not been producing the same form as I did last year and, having been ill and unable to play in the Perpignan game, this is a chance for me to play and show that I am back in form and back playing well.
"You just have to take the opportunities that you get and first and foremost this a massive game for Gloucester against Bath.
"It's always a place I enjoy playing and I am looking forward to going back there. It's not your standard away game."
Burns fell ill at the eleventh hour before the Cherry and Whites' heroic victory over Perpignan in the Heineken Cup.
He said it was the right choice to step aside so that Gloucester could face the French outfit with a full bill of health.
Nigel Davies' European rotational policy then meant Burns only featured on the bench in Limerick.
Jonny Bentley was given the nod in the electric atmosphere of Thomond Park.
Burns replaced Bentley on 58 minutes as the Munster machine began to flow.
Bath overturned Gloucester 31-25 in a furious encounter at The Rec in last season's home straight.
But this season, Burns reckons Gloucester have the momentum.
Despite the dogged defeat in Limerick, Burns believes it has hardened their skin, which could pay dividends come kick off tonight.
He continued: "It's a special place to play on a derby day and I am really looking forward to getting down there and playing well.
"It was disappointing not to start against Munster but the boys fronted up well and we have had two good performances now.
"The Perpignan win was great and in the Munster game we fronted up and competed very well.
"We're in good spirits and having a good run out and a good full week's training ahead of Bath has definitely done me well.
"Playing Munster has made us a bit battle hardened. Thomond Park was a physical game and Bath is going to be different and everyone knows it's a West Country derby.
"The start we have had has been up and down so it is important now that we get that consistency.
"I feel the last few weeks we have performed consistently and replicate that level we played against Perpignan.
"Last season they came off games in Europe and were a bit more prepared for the mental challenge and hopefully that's what Munster has done for us.
"It's kept us more mentally strong and in good shape going into a game in Bath. Hopefully we can put the marker down."