Super Rugby Pacific: Highlanders turn to ‘experienced’ Freddie Burns for attacking solutions

·3-min read
 Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

The Highlanders have turned to Englishman Freddie Burns to find a way to kickstart their stalling attack against the Chiefs.

The fly-half comes into the starting lineup having been out with injury, restricting his chances to play for the Dunedin side.

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Burns has only made three appearances since joining the Super Rugby Pacific team from the Premiership defending champions Leicester Tigers.

Looking for an attacking solution

Highlanders boss Clarke Dermody is hoping the star can “unlock” the backline and says Burns is very excited to be playing alongside veteran All Black Aaron Smith.

“Freddie is obviously coming back from injury, and he hasn’t actually played that much for us because of that,” Dermody said.

“But these are the games we got him over for. He’s hugely experienced, he can control a game, and hopefully he can unlock our backline.

“The good players look forward to these games. I know he’s looking forward to playing with Aaron [Smith]. It’ll be the first time he’s played with him.”

Burns’ inclusion to the starting line-up comes at the expense of Mitch Hunt, who did not showcase his best in recent games.

“No one likes not starting when you’re accustomed to that role,” Dermody said. “But I guess the challenge is we’ve got selection pressure now we’ve got our injuries back.

“So, it’s up to the guys that get the opportunity to nail the performance.”

Meanwhile, the coach was impressed with wing Scott Gregory last week, who subsequently retained his starting spot as a result.

“He just gave us work rate,” Dermody said. “He chased kicks, contested in the air, worked back on counterattack.

“That’s the stuff that we need. We need guys working hard on the field.

“The Chiefs kick the most out of any team, and they kick the furthest out of any team, which is funny because everyone says that we kick too much.

“They’re actually the highest kicking team, and they’re really smart how they do it, so we need guys to be able to get back and look after the ball.”

Difficult opponent

The Chiefs are still yet to be beaten this season and come off a tremendous win against the Crusaders last weekend that was won with a late try. Dermody knows that if his side is to have any chance this weekend, they will need a complete performance.

“The stats showed that the Crusaders probably should have won that game [against the Chiefs], but if you give the game drivers of the Chiefs – the McKenzies and Stevensons and Brad Webers – one or two opportunities, they’re pretty good at taking it.

“So, it’s been our focus this week, making sure it’s an 80-minutes performance, making sure our defence is on point, and giving the reins to Freddie to unlock our attack.”

Highlanders’ team v Chiefs
Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

Highlanders: 15 Sam Gilbert, 14 Connor Garden-Bachop, 13 Fetuli Paea, 12 Thomas Umaga-Jensen, 11 Scott Gregory, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Hugh Renton, 7 Billy Harmon (c), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Will Tucker, 4 Fabian Holland, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Andrew Makalio, 1 Ethan de Groot
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Saula Ma’u, 19 Josh Dickson, 20 Sean Withy, 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Mitch Hunt, 23 Jona Nareki

READ MORE: Anton Lienert-Brown: All Blacks centre back from injury to play 100th game for the Chiefs

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