Monday 10 December 2018

Byrne happy for hectic schedule at busiest time of season

Ross confident experiences with Ireland will benefit Leinster, writes Marcus Ó Buachalla

Back in blue: Ross Byrne returns to action for Leinster following the November internationals. Photo: Sportsfile
Back in blue: Ross Byrne returns to action for Leinster following the November internationals. Photo: Sportsfile

Marcus Ó Buachalla

No rest for the wicked. Less than a week after he played a key role in Ireland's win against the USA in the Guinness Series, Leinster outhalf Ross Byrne gets ready to return to the Leinster squad in the hope of doing something similar to the Dragons in Rodney Parade.

"It was a really enjoyable few weeks. Just to be involved and obviously to get the two caps made it all the more special but yeah, it's a new experience for me really to have to leave that behind pretty quick and get my mind focused on Leinster. It's been good to be back in to UCD this week and see all the familiar faces was great."

Having won his first cap over in Chicago against Italy, kicking two conversions in his 19-minute cameo, and having played for over 50 minutes at the weekend against the USA, he will have done his chances of further inclusion in Ireland squads no harm at all. The balancing act of provincial and national duties is a headache he would like to get used to.

"Hopefully. I think I benefited massively from being involved on the summer tour to Australia and then again over the last four weeks being exposed to other players from the other provinces and other coaches and coaching methods.

"It all helps to bring your game on and add more strings to your bow and at the end of the day you would like to think that you become a better player and that Leinster benefit off the back of that."

One string that he certainly has to his bow is the cross-field kick. Leinster fans will be used to seeing that particular trick and hopefully Irish fans will get used to it too. On Saturday, a perfectly executed kick in the 58th minute for a Stuart McCloskey try was reminiscent of a cross-field kick he put on a plate for Rory Loughlin on his European debut for Leinster against Northampton Saints way back in Franklin's Gardens in December 2016.

Variety

"It's something I work very hard on. Whether that's back in Leinster with Emmet Farrell or in camp with Ireland with Richie Murphy, we put a lot of effort into our kicking and also the variety. It's important to keep defences guessing and I suppose it's up to us at outhalf to pick the right moments to use it and thankfully that one came off."

Of course the last few weeks as he had alluded to wasn't his first international exposure as he was also involved with the summer tour to Australia but despite being named on the bench for the final game, he didn't get on. And while he may have been disappointed, others were less so.

"Of course I'd have loved to have been involved over the tour but look it wasn't to be. Ultimately it was a privilege to be involved in a winning tour down under and to gain that exposure and the experience of just being in that environment.

"My folks were delighted to see me win my first cap in Chicago as they couldn't make Australia so I think they were the only ones secretly happy with how it all played out! It was brilliant to have them and my older brother and girlfriend in Chicago and to celebrate with them. They can clash heads now over where that jersey hangs but I'll leave them to have that argument!"

The support of parents, of family, of friends and of foes caught him very pleasantly by surprise.

"I think you do take it all somewhat for granted until a moment like your debut happens. I'd been going well with Leinster and that is your immediate pool of family and friends that are heavily invested but this was different. I was getting messages from people from my old club, from my school St. Michael's, UCD, even lads I would have played against growing up or with Leinster underage teams. It caught me massively by surprise.

"I was speechless actually just the amount of goodwill there was and the good luck messages. It does remind you again how lucky we are to do what we do and to represent your country in particular at home in the Aviva is something that I am hugely proud of but that obviously a lot of other people rightly take a lot of pride in too."

There were numerous pictures of Byrne and Luke McGrath after the USA game with Greg McWilliams, formerly of St. Michael's but now the USA attack coach, chatting on the pitch.

"It's a small world. Three Michael's men on the pitch together, myself and Lukey with Ireland and obviously Greg doing a great job with the USA. It was good to catch up and have a quick chat."

Great memories of a debut, a first game at the Aviva with Ireland and an Autumn series win. But now back to Leinster and the Guinness PRO14 trip to face the Dragons. Over the summer they invested heavily in their squad and already they have more wins than during the whole of last season. What has Byrne seen of Bernard Jackman's men?

"Two very different teams for a start. What we faced last season to this. Some of the lads that they have brought in have been great for them like Jordan Williams and they have turned Rodney Parade into a bit of a fortress with all their wins coming at home.

"They've also made tweaks to their defensive system with Bernard Jackman now taking over that role as well so all in all I think we can expect a very different team to what we faced in the RDS earlier this season and in particular when compared to what we faced last year."

And after that, eight games in eight weeks.

"It's the busiest time of the year that's for sure but you can't get too distracted by schedules. You have to just stay in this day, in this week and see where that takes you. We had a really positive performance against the Ospreys but that's not worth much if we don't back it up.

"I'm looking forward to getting back out there and playing with some of those young lads and getting up and running for Leinster. It's a massive block of games for the club and I can't wait to start playing my part starting on Saturday."

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