The text message came through on Billy Burns’ phone seconds after the draw was made.
It was from Ulster head coach Dan McFarland: “You are playing against your brother – get your head on”.
The pool stages of the Champions Cup pitted Billy Burns and Ulster against Freddie Burns and Bath, and tomorrow’s game at the Rec will be something of a homecoming for the younger brother when he plays against his boyhood club.
“I was ball boy at the Rec for four or five years but I probably overstayed my welcome,” he smiled.
“I was about 15 and the rest of them were all about 10, but I loved it so much. I used to go down there and watch and obviously Freddie was in the Bath Academy for a little while before he made the move to Gloucester, but I used to always be down there watching all the games.
“That was probably where I got my first love for rugby, but I really harnessed the sport and knew that it was something I wanted to do.
“I loved just being right by the pitch, you almost felt as if you were part of the game.
“It was great because one of my jobs as one of the senior ball boys was go and fill the water up which meant I was in the changing rooms before they would go out.
“So I used to be right in the thick of it when they did their teams talks and stuff, so it was good.”
From ball boy to water boy to professional rugby player, the wheel has come full circle by bringing fly-half Burns back home— albeit to the away dressing room.
“It was the club I supported as a child and I got introduced to rugby at Bath, so it will be a great occasion to go back there,” he says.
“I have a lot of friends and family who still support Bath. I have played against Fred a few times before and it will be a special occasion for the family, except my mum. Everyone else will enjoy it.”
Burns, a Challenge Cup winner with Gloucester five years ago, has played against his older brother Freddie before but to do it in Bath will be extra special, as well as giving his parents a shorter journey to watch him play.
“I am looking forward to it more because it is quite strange how my rugby career has gone.
“I started in Bath and I am now going to be going back across and representing the province here and it will be a strange feeling but one I will be massively proud of, and to do it in front of a lot of people I went to school with as well.
“Obviously my mum and dad are used to having to fly across here to watch me, but they can just pop down the road this time will be good.
“But it will not be good if we lose that is for sure. It will be a better experience if we win.”