'England & Scotland Eligible' - Furgus Burke: Saracens Newest Signing Ready to Fill Owen Farrell's Fly Half Vacancy - Ruck

‘England & Scotland Eligible’ – Furgus Burke: Saracens Newest Signing Ready to Fill Owen Farrell’s Fly Half Vacancy

For those who may not be in the know, get ready to be hearing the name ‘Fergus Burke’ quite a lot in the foreseeable future. The 24-year-old has just arrived at Saracens from the Crusaders ahead of the 2024/25 Premiership season, and recently got his first experience of Twickenham, as he led the Barbarians to a 45-36 win over Fiji.

Fergus Burke of Barbarians lines up the conversion during the Killik Cup match between Barbarians and Fiji at Twickenham Stadium in London on 22 June 2024. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

In what could well be his first of many run outs at the stadium known as ‘HQ’, Burke is eligible to play for England and could soon be throwing his hat in the ring for the ever competitive 10 jersey power struggle. However, Steve Borthwick will have to act fast if he wishes to secure the services of the halfback, as Gregor Townsend will in no doubt be eyeing up the playmaker due to Burke also having Scottish ancestry.

After arriving in England for the first time in his life, Burke gave his first of many expected press conferences to the reporting media. Speaking ahead of the Barbarians win over the Pacific Islanders, Burke made it clear that he has international intentions, and would love a call-up for either England or Scotland in the not so distant future.

“My mum’s English. She grew up here, lived here. She’s been in New Zealand for maybe 20 years now. And her father’s Scottish. My mum is Julie and her father’s a Robinson.”

Fergus Burke of Barbarians during the Killik Cup match between Barbarians and Fiji at Twickenham Stadium in London on 22 June 2024. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

“For sure. I have big ambitions to play international rugby and first things first I need to come over here and play well for Saracens and whatever happens in that space happens. It’s exciting.”

“It is a massive help (Barbarians selection). It is crazy how life works like that. It has fallen into place like that and I am really grateful to be here.”

Having come through the ranks with Canterbury and then later the Crusaders, Burke steadily established himself as a leading young fly half across the land of the All Blacks. Burke impressed the New Zealand age grade selectors, and has previously been capped in the U20s set-up. The halfback lined up in the same NZ U20s squad as current England stars Ethan Roots and Chandler Cunningham-South, as well as Welsh-capped back-row Taine Plumtree.

The class of 2019 certainly provided some top talents that have gone on to prosper in the Northern Hemipshere, and Burke made it clear in how he wishes to emulate his former age grade teammates. When asked on if he had spoken to any of his former teammates, such as Plumtree, after confirming his move to the Premiership, Burke said;

Chandler Cunningham-South of England during the England Captains Run at Twickenham Stadium, London on 9 February 2024 (Photo: George Beck/PPAUK)

“Yeah, I haven’t spoken to him but he was in my 20s team and he has done awesome. Lots of boys have come over here and make it work. You look at Ethan Roots and Chandler and boys like that. It is exciting. It is a different challenge and I am looking forward to it.”

The exhilarating fly half has been selected by Saracens to replace StoneX stalwart Owen Farrell, as the former England captain joins Racing 92 for the upcoming French Top 14 season. Also, Sarries have bid farewell to their exciting halfback prospect Manu Vunipola, who will likely be joined by his cousins Billy and Mako in the Top 14, following his move to Boardeaux-Begles.

Burke admitted to understanding the pressure that the Saracens 10 jersey holds, and how he is expected to command an immense back-line brimming with Test match talent. However, the New Zealander is not walking into the Saracens North London training centre trying to be ‘the next Owen Farrell’, Burke is whole-heartedly his own man, and has the intentions of putting his own unique mark on the fly half spot, the same way he did for the Crusaders last season.

Owen Farrell, Captain of Saracens completes a lap of honour after his final game at the Stone X Stadium during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Match between Saracens and Sale Sharks at Stonex Stadium on 18 May 2023. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

“It’s exciting. I’ve been through something similar this year, although I’ve been injured a bit, with Richie Mo’unga leaving. I’m my own player but I have ultimate respect for what Owen’s done at Saracens and he will probably go down as the greatest ever. It’s awesome and I’m looking forward to joining the club.”

“No I haven’t (spoken) to Owen, no. I’d love to. I was somewhat hoping that he would be here this week, in this team. That would have been pretty col. It wasn’t to be but I’m sure I’ll link up with him at some point.

“They’re (Saracens) very strong. I see them as quite a similar club to the Crusaders in New Zealand. They’ve had quite a lot of success and have built an awesome culture to have that success. The opportunity to go to a club like that might not be there in a few years. When that opportunity comes… I didn’t have any intentions on leaving New Zealand at 24… I spoke to lots of people. It was a big decision.”

Fergus Burke of Barbarians during the Killik Cup match between Barbarians and Fiji at Twickenham Stadium in London on 22 June 2024. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

Burke was also on the cards of signing with Glasgow Warriors, in a move that would have certainly played to the favour of a call up to the Scotland camp. However, the 24-year-old opted for a career in the red and black ‘wolf pack’, with some decisive factors being virtual discussions from across the world with Sarries Director of Rugby Mark McCall.

“It’s more the casual side of it (the calls with McCall). I’m sure there will be expectations when I get there in a few weeks. But so far it’s been Zoom meetings. Pretty casual, the things he likes in my game and how that fits in with Sarries, things like that.”

“At the start of the year I didn’t have too many intentions on going elsewhere. There was a bit of chat around the Glasgow stuff and then Saracens came along at the same kind of time. I looked into it and decided it (Saracens) was the best thing for me.

Mark McCall, Director of Rugby of Saracens during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Match between Bath Rugby and Saracens at the Recreation Ground on 26 April 2024. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

Burke’s latest season was hindered with an untimely injury, in what was his first career break that kept him out on the shelf. The halfback battled back valiantly from his Achilles injury, and now feels back to his best for his maiden run out at the Stone X. The Crusaders were hindered through a litany of injuries last season, as they failed to win the Super Rugby title for the first time in eight years (Auckland Blues crowned champions). During his time on the sidelines, Burke confided with another young firecracker throughout their respective rehabilitation processes.

“I tore my achilles at the end of the last year and spent six months coming back from that. Then had a wee calf niggle but finished the Super season so I got a few games in at the end. First serious injury. It is weird. It gave me perspective. Not that you take it for granted but when you have a smooth ride for it to be taken away makes you appreciate it more.

“Also the journey from not being able to work to feeling athletically able again. Once you get over the initial frustration and everything it is a process I just tried to walk towards.”

Fergus Burke of Barbarians kicks the conversion during the Killik Cup match between Barbarians and Fiji at Twickenham Stadium in London on 22 June 2024. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

“That’s a mindset thing for me. I said to myself that I could use my injury to upskill in other areas of the game and there were a few of us at the Crusaders with Will Jordan and a few of those boys we saw it as an opportunity to pick each others’ brains and talk rugby as much as we could to try to get better.”

Experiencing a match day at Twickenham Stadium is a bucket list moment for any rugby fan, and Burke was no different ahead of his first trip to the home of the RFU. Having travelled nearly 19,000km across the world to play for the Barbarians, Burke expressed his excitement of tearing up HQ whilst donning the famous black and white kit.

“For sure. I have never been there (Twickenham)but watched a lot of footy there and obviously regarded very highly in the rugby space and I am looking forward to the opportunity.”

“I have connected with everyone to be fair, it’s people from all countries and stuff so I wouldn’t say anyone in particular. Just the make-up of the group, we have connected really well and really enjoying.”

“Obviously Sam Whitelock is the captain so he leads a lot and people like Ben Youngs and Danny Care have a lot of experience.”