Burns still pushing for top-four finish
The future of the Heineken Cup has no bearing on Gloucester's season, believes Freddie Burns.
The Kingsholm fly-half loves first-grade European action and desperately wants to see the under-fire tournament saved.
However, the 23-year-old said the Gloucester squad will lose little sleep over European uncertainty for next term and beyond.
Premiership Rugby are pushing on with forming the new Rugby Champions Cup, still hoping other country's club bodies will follow suit.
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With no guaranteed Eurorugby next season, clearly no one knows whether the traditional top-six Premiership finish will be enough to secure a seat in top continental competition.
Gloucester host Exeter Chiefs at Kingsholm tomorrow (2pm), with Burns primed for a reunion with old Kingsholm comrade and former flat-mate Dave Lewis.
The Chiefs edged out Gloucester 40-39 in the final game of last season, Exeter claiming the final Heineken Cup spot in a breathless encounter. Burns believes European challenges naturally raise the Premiership standard.
Qualifying for Europe has always been tough, but Burns and Gloucester still have eyes on the Premiership's top prize. "We've always said we want top four, and nothing changes," asserted the Bath-born pivot.
"If you want to win a Premiership then you need that top-four finish so you can then have a crack at the play-offs.
"Nothing changes from that point of view, so we've just got to let it play out. We've got to stay focused on the action, the challenges and the big games on the field.
"Exeter are a quality team, that game we lost down there was hugely enjoyable, but obviously frustrating still to lose. They are a team that wants to play rugby, they've established themselves and then pushed forward too."
Admitting it will be strange to find old friend and half-back partner Lewis in the opposition camp tomorrow, Burns said the 24-year-old is finding his niche at Exeter.
Burns continued: "It will be weird to go up against him, but you build great friends right across the Premiership, not just at your own club.
"In a strange way big rivalry can help improve friendships and bring you closer together in some respects. It's great to see him down there getting a lot of game time.
"Once you're in the heat of battle you don't really worry too much who you're up against, though. There might be a few comments here or there but beyond that it will be fun. "
Former England prop and 2003 World Cup winner Phil Vickery MBE attends his first Council meeting today, as one of four newly-elected Council members. The Devon-born and Cornwall raised ex-Gloucester and Wasps player joins Tracy Edmundson (Notts, Lincs and Derby), David McAteer (Berkshire) and John Rogers (Cumbria) on the 61-strong Council.