FREE-RUNNING Harlequins will be Gloucester's toughest backline test yet – with or without talisman fly-half Nick Evans, believes Freddie Burns.
Harlequins' 32-year-old Kiwi playmaker Evans remains an injury doubt ahead of Saturday's Premiership clash at The Stoop (kick-off 5.15pm).
Evans damaged his ankle in Harlequins' 40-13 Heineken Cup victory over Connacht on October 14 and has not played since.
Premiership new boy Ben Botica clambered off the bench that day to guide Quins to victory.
The 23-year-old joined Conor O'Shea's side in the summer from North Harbour in New Zealand, and has quickly established himself as a shrewd top-flight operator.
One glance at his pedigree and his quick adaptation is hardly surprising – he is the son of former All Blacks and Rugby League legend Frano Botica.
Botica Junior was born in New Zealand but holds a British passport after spending eight years in England when his father was playing for Wigan.
Already there are murmurs that Botica mark two could have the potential to make an impact on the international stage with England.
Harlequins still have former Newcastle fly-half Rory Clegg in their squad too, and Burns knows whoever takes the field at ten for the Londoners on Saturday will prove a major threat.
Burns explained: "It doesn't make any difference who they have at ten to be honest – they are still a very high-quality side that have threats all over the field.
"They have the systems in place and the personnel as well, that potentially being without one player isn't going to be particularly damaging to them.
"In the same way that we have a squad that we trust, and our coaches and players trust everyone to come in and perform, then Quins are just the same as that.
"We've got to make sure that we treat them just the same whoever is out there, because one thing is for sure – they will be a very tough side to come up against.
"Everyone knows about Nick Evans' quality and he's a great player.
"But you cannot just concentrate on one player anyway, whoever that is, so whoever leads their line, we've just got to approach things the same as we always do."
Reigning Premiership champions Harlequins picked up where they left off last term, and currently top the league table once again.
Gloucester's 27-21 victory over Leicester at Kingsholm on Saturday has cemented the Cherry and Whites' credentials under new boss Nigel Davies.
The Kingsholm rugby director admitted last week's clash was the first of two big acid tests for the season.
Burns' smart grubber turned the Tigers defence for Charlie Sharples' try on Saturday – before his trademark chip and chase produced a stunning solo score.
Gloucester's maverick ten might enjoy the outlandish – but he knows he must only dip into his box of tricks if the team will benefit.
The 22-year-old continued: "I've got a few more tricks up my sleeve yet I reckon – but the important thing is judging when it helps the team to use them.
"There's no point trying things like the chip, or a break, if you're not confident they will come off – but not only that, also benefit the team.
"That all comes into the game management side of things that I've been working hard on with Nigel and the other coaches this season.
"I want to keep improving on that front all the time – I do thrive on responsibility, but when you shoulder it, you've got to deliver really."