England veteran Burns joins the Highlanders for the 2023 Super Rugby season

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Wellington (AFP) – Experienced England fly-half Freddie Burns will join Super Rugby Pacific side the Highlanders for the 2023 season, the New Zealand franchise confirmed Monday.

The 32-year-old has been granted an early release from his current Leicester Tigers contract to sign for the Dunedin-based Highlanders, according to the English Premiership side.

“As a young man I grew up watching Super rugby in the early hours,” Burns said in a statement.

“To have the opportunity to represent such a prestigious club in the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season is a huge honor.”

Burns, who previously spent three years at English side Bath, is the second international back to join the Highlanders for 2023 after Argentinian winger Martin Bogado.

Burns, who started his career at Gloucester, has made five appearances for England.

He played 114 times for Leicester in two separate stints and chalked up 794 points including a last-gasp drop goal off the bench in the 2022 English Premiership final to seal a 15-12 win over Saracens.

In 2021, Burns also had a brief stint at Japanese side Toyota Jido Shokki before returning to Leicester.

Highlanders coach Clarke Dermody said Burns’ arrival will be “crucial” in the number 10 shirt, where the Highlanders struggled last season.

“Last year we were exposed at 10 due to a run of injuries,” Dermody explained.

“Freddie’s arrival will provide us with that extra insurance against that scenario playing out again in 2023.”

The Highlanders kick off their 2023 campaign at home against last season’s beaten finalists the Blues on February 25.

Burns follows in the footsteps of ex-England flanker James Haskell, who played for the Highlanders in 2012.

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