England Saxons: Freddie Burns' display defended by Jon Callard
Last Updated: 26/01/14 9:56am
England Saxons coach Jon Callard is backing Freddie Burns to force his way back into Six Nations reckoning despite the fly-half spurning a match-winning opportunity in the 14-8 defeat to Ireland Wolfhounds.
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 a winning try with the last play of the game.
England head coach Stuart Lancaster sent Burns into Saxons action 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 in-form 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.
"Absolutely this game is a step in the right direction for Freddie. 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."
"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."
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," added 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."
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."