Tuesday 23 July 2019

'I was thinking would I ever get a cap' - Ross Byrne delighted to make international bow in Italy rout

Ross Byrne, left, and Luke McGrath of Ireland in conversation with USA Assistant coach Greg McWilliams after the International Rugby match between Ireland and Italy at Soldier Field in Chicago, USA. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ross Byrne, left, and Luke McGrath of Ireland in conversation with USA Assistant coach Greg McWilliams after the International Rugby match between Ireland and Italy at Soldier Field in Chicago, USA. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Cian Tracey in Chicago

Given that he didn't manage to play a single minute on Ireland's summer tour in Australia, it must have felt like a long three weeks for Ross Byrne.

The experience would have been invaluable but ultimately it is all about playing and now having done so, Byrne is eager to build on his international debut.

Truth be told, it was an ideal scenario for the Leinster out-half to come into. The result was beyond any doubt and Byrne was able to relax into the occasion for the final 20 minutes.

With his family sat in the stand at Solider Field, it was an emotional occasion for everyone concerned.

“Massive,” a delighted Byrne enthused following Ireland's 54-7 win over Italy.

“It probably hasn't even hit me yet, it's still sinking in. It seems like it all happened so quick. I'm sure as the hours go by I'll reflect and be absolutely delighted.

“I have my parents over, my family, so it's brilliant.

“My phone's exploding now, loads of people from home sending nice messages and the support from my friends in nice to have.”

Byrne kicked two successful penalties but ever the perfectionist, he was disgusted at missing his third kick after Jordan Larmour's stunning try.

"It's still killing me a little bit, to be honest... A lot actually. I just have to make sure it doesn't happen again.”

Like all youngsters, Byrne always dreamed of one day wearing the green jersey and having done so at under-age level, Saturday was a special moment for him.

“I suppose it was the first time I watched Ireland play, when you start playing rugby as a young kid.It's what everyone wants to do,” the 23-year old said.

“I remember watching ROG and I can remember David Humphreys playing for Ireland, then ROG overtaking him. I remember the 2003 World Cup vaguely so bits and pieces from then.”

Joe Schmidt has placed a big emphasis on Byrne developing with the ball in hand and having earned the Ireland head coach's trust, h has his sighs set on winning more caps.

“It's definitely something I've gotten a lot better at in the last two years,” Byrne added.

“I wouldn't say it was a weakness but it was something that I could definitely have added to my game a lot more.

“It's definitely getting better but it can be even better again. It's something I'm every conscious of day in day out, whether it's here or back in Leinster. I'm getting great help with it so hopefully I can push on.

“It's just being comfortable on the line with the ball and also just seeing what's in front of you, if there is an opportunity to have a go yourself or if I can get to a defender and make him step in, just a combination of everything.

“I was thinking ‘Am I ever going to get a cap?’ But that’s just the way it is, but obviously I was lucky enough to get a cap today and I was delighted with it.”

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