Leicester Tigers have agreed terms with Freddie Burns for an early release from his contract with the club to pursue an opportunity in Super Rugby with the Highlanders in New Zealand.
Burns has made 114 appearances for the club, in two stints, and scored 794 points.
He made his Tigers debut in 2014 after joining from Gloucester Rugby and scored 603 points in three seasons, as well as featuring in the 2017 Anglo-Welsh Cup winning campaign, before departing for Bath ahead of the 2017/18 season.
Burns joined Japanese club Toyota Jido Shokki in 2021 before returning to Leicester ahead of the 2021/22 season, which he concluded with the game-winning drop-goal in the Gallagher Premiership Final win over Saracens.
Speaking about the decision to seek a release, Burns said: “This decision is not one I have made lightly and has been unbelievably hard.”
“It’s hard to put into words what Leicester Tigers and what this group of players means to me. I can’t single out one thing that I’ll miss the most, I will miss everything about being a part of this club.”
“At this stage in my career, the opportunity was one I saw as too good to turn down and go down to gain this experience on the field as well as the life experience of living and playing in New Zealand.
“Now, for me, is the right time to move on and I am so grateful to Wiggy, the board and everyone at the club in allowing me to make this next step in my career.
“I leave with a heavy heart but will be giving my all until I leave Leicester Tigers.”
Burns also singled out the Leicester Tigers fans and the relationship he has shared with them during two stints at the club.
“It’s the supporters for me that make this club so great,” he said.
“I have always felt such a special relationship with Leicester Tigers fans. They are the one constant at the club and to have felt that warmth from them, in both my stints here, is something I will never forget.
“The commitment from the fans, whether it’s home sellouts or travelling support, is just unrivalled with any club I have played for in my career
“I’ll forever be bound to Leicester Tigers as not just a player but a supporter.”
Looking back on his second stint with the club, Burns added: “My return to this club was unbelievable; to be a part of a group like this with players who are so tight and committed to one another.”
“The way it has played out exceeded anything I could have dreamt of happening.
“To have had the moments we have had together in the past few seasons, not just the final win, has been like a dream and something I will never, ever forget.”
Discussing the agreement for an early release with Burns, Leicester Tigers Interim Head Coach Richard Wigglesworth said: “I’ve known Freddie for a long time and played with him for England and this club, as well as now having the privilege of coaching him at Leicester Tigers.”
“When he approached me with this request, while a tough decision and difficult, I was not going to stand in the way of the opportunity for him to have this experience in his career.
“He is a hard-working, committed player who has as good a right boot as you will ever see and feel fortunate to have shared in his career throughout the years.
“We will miss Freddie, on and off the field, and what has pleased me is seeing how much he has enjoyed this stint with the club. I believe we have got the best out of him through the fact that he has enjoyed being here and played his best rugby with that balance.
“On behalf of everybody at Leicester Tigers, I thank him for what he has done for this club and wish him all the best for this incredible opportunity in New Zealand.
“I have no doubt that Freddie will continue to give his all until he departs next month.”
The release from Leicester Tigers is effective from February. The club will confirm a departure date in the coming days.