Holm Truths: 'Family keep my feet on ground' - Freddie Burns
Any time Freddie Burns gets ahead of himself, his family knock him back into line.
Gloucester's commanding fly-half explained how the Burns clan's tough love always comes heavily laced with irony.
AS the taunts rang out across The Recreation Ground, nonplussed Freddie Burns searched for the source.
The 17-year-old had just missed a touchline conversion in an increasing rout for Bath's development side.
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The young fly-half was leading the line with assurance and his side were in control.
And yet still some supporters voiced their disapproval at the shanked shot at goal.
But once he located the protestors, all he could do was chuckle.
"We were playing a Navy team, I think," explained Gloucester's increasingly potent 22-year-old playmaker.
"We must have beaten them about 70-20 in the end, and overall I thought I had gone okay.
"I missed one conversion from the touchline in the second-half, and I just heard 'Who are you, who are you?' from the back of the stands.
"I looked up wondering who it was, and it was my family with a megaphone.
"They've always kept my feet on the ground, and I think that's where that process really got going.
"They're my biggest supporters and my biggest critics all at the same time, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
"They are always looking for ways to play practical jokes and things like that, but the best way to deal with it is not to make any predictions – they will always be a surprise."
Bath-born Burns has never been fazed by anything, which is perhaps why his family keep him level where possible.
If just a touch of on-field arrogance is all part of the day job, Burns remains relaxed and unfussy off the pitch – his family give him little choice.
He continued: "I've got a great family around me, and friends, and that does keep you grounded.
"But I've always believed a certain amount of arrogance is needed when you step on to the pitch.
"You have to be realistic, and after games you have to realise why certain things happened and you must learn from them.
"But I've always been one of these where if people have doubted me I've never doubted myself, and I don't think you can afford to if you want to be at the top of the game.
"I question myself on a Monday, I look back on the game and go through it with Mike Tindall.
"But when I step on the pitch in the ten shirt, I've got to run the show, and be fully confident in not just my own ability but also the ability of the team too.
"I like to feel I'm grounded, but once you step across the white line you've got to change.
"You've got to really boss things and almost be a little bit arrogant on the field."
Burns' father Jerry only took up rugby aged 40, after spending his formative years in motocross – but he is still plugging away in the engine room for Oldfield Old Boys II XV.
When older brothers Sam and Jack took up rugby as youngsters, Burns followed suit.
He thinks a lengthy stint of junior captaincy might account for the famed confidence.
"I think there's a certain air of confidence in the family," he conceded. "I think I'm probably one of the more confident anyway.
"My old man's always told me to go out there and play how I feel, do what I want to do.
"My old man used to compete in motorcross when he was younger, and he only started playing when he was 40.
"He's 54 now and he still rocked out last week for Oldfield Seconds and got a black eye, playing in the second row, or the rucking spectre as I call him.
"By the time he hits one ruck it's finished, so he just plods off to the next!
"My brother started playing down at Avon, and as soon as I turned five I was down there in that playing touch rugby.
"I was captain there from Under-Sevens to Under-17s, so I've always been comfortable making calls.
"I remember the days where weekends were all about rugby, my old man was chairman at Oldfield for a number of years and my mum ran the bar.
"So we'd be up down to Morrison's to get the cheese and onion for the sandwiches and then we'd drive up to Oldfield for 12 and watch my dad play.
"I'd stay at the club until about seven, have a laugh with the older boys, then it would be back home for bed and up at ten down at Avon for rugby.
"Then it would be straight in the car with the boots still on after rugby to go off and play football.
"So it was always a sport-filled weekend, which was great.
"Being captain when I was young and that family support at such a young age, I think that's definitely helped now.
"It feels like second-nature to want to make calls – the challenge of course is to make the right ones.
"Sometimes Jim Hamilton and I will have the odd falling out on the field about what we want to do.
"But I'd far rather we were both having a discussion about what to do than shying away and trying to pass the buck to each other."