Tuesday 26 March 2019

Byrne's patience to get its reward against depleted Eagles

Ross Byrne: Ready to kick on again. Photo: Sportsfile
Ross Byrne: Ready to kick on again. Photo: Sportsfile
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

There was no escaping the odd man out when Ireland wrapped up their Australia tour in Sydney in June. Aside from Will Addison, whose holiday had conveniently dovetailed with Ireland's trip, only one man had togged out and not played in any of the three Tests.

In which case Ross Byrne could be forgiven for counting the minutes between June and November when, for Ireland, it would all kick off again.

"I tried not to think about it," he says. "There was no guarantee coming home from Australia that I was automatically going to be included in November so I didn't look at it that way. I wanted to get a good pre-season and I knew if I was going to be picked it would be on my form for Leinster, which luckily enough was good."

Byrne's involvement on Saturday against the Eagles will depend on Joe Schmidt's plan for Joey Carbery. In Chicago that allowed for a good look-in for the debutant and if it was comfortable enough in that game then it will be handier still against a US side minus the services of Aj MacGinty.

MacGinty was very good when the sides met in searing heat in New Jersey two summers ago and the Eagles still were on the wrong side of a 55-19 hammering. Coach John Mitchell was on his way back to South Africa at that point - in truth he never actually left - and currently the Eagles are in a happier place under Gary Gold with an unprecedented nine wins on the bounce thanks to yesterday's 31-5 win in Romania.

Last weekend's last gasp win over Samoa was a milestone for them. Another victory on Saturday would give them a remarkable unbeaten calendar year. No, it won't happen.

So Byrne will get his second cap in comfortable enough surroundings and in the knowledge that his progress this season has kicked on again. Having Carbery off the premises makes life that bit easier for him in Leinster, even if, for Leo Cullen, there was never an issue between which of them should play 10 when Johnny Sexton was unavailable.

The arrival in Leinster of favourite son Felipe Contepomi to replace Girvan Dempsey has given added impetus to Byrne.

"Yeah definitely, he's been brilliant since he came in," he says. "He's brought a different perspective, that's for sure. He's constantly challenging me the whole time, always on to me about different things and trying to improve me. It's brilliant and he sees things differently to people in Ireland so it's great to have him and I'm looking forward to learning a lot more from him."

He wasn't afraid to take risks as a player?

"No he certainly wasn't. I wouldn't say his coaching is like that but he definitely encourages you to express yourself which is great. The information I'm getting from himself and Johnny is massive.

"Some days it's just the tiniest little things you're being told or observing or hearing which gives you as much information and as many perspectives as possible. Then it's about trying to get up to that level as fast as I can because it's brilliant having both of them there. I suppose I'm lucky enough to be in a set-up like that."

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