Sunday 18 August 2019

Byrne: Trophies would help my Irish chances

Ross Byrne captains Leinster and, barring injury, will be on the bench for the final.
Ross Byrne captains Leinster and, barring injury, will be on the bench for the final.

Ryan Corry

The moment that sums up Ross Byrne's performance against Ulster in the quarter-final of the Champions Cup is one that would leave some supporters baffled.

In the 71st minute, Byrne (below), playing at 10 in place of the injured Jonathan Sexton, signalled to stand-in captain Rhys Ruddock that he intended to kick for the posts with a penalty from underneath the intimidating wall that is the East Stand of Aviva Stadium.

Carrying an uncomfortable leg injury that would see him replaced immediately after the restart, the Leinster man slotted the penalty between the posts for what would be the final points of a bruising European encounter.

Why were supporters baffled? Byrne was excluded from Ireland's spring activities despite concerns about injuries to Sexton and Munster's Joey Carbery coming in to the Six Nations.

While the desire to play for his country on as high a stage as he can is still burning inside Byrne, his priority lies with his province.

"The better Leinster play, the better I tend to play to put myself back in with a chance of selection.

"I was just kind of taking each game as it came and put in the best performance that I could for Leinster and see what happened after that," the former St Michael's College man says.

"To be honest, I'm just looking forward to the end of the season with Leinster.

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"We've got two trophies we want to win. If we can win them and I can play a bit of a part in that, it'll help my case a bit.

"After that, I'll worry about the pre-season and if I'm in the summer squad or not and just take it from there.

"He (Joe Schmidt) spoke to me about how he felt the other lads were a little bit ahead of me in different areas so it's just up to me to improve my game and put myself back in the hat."

The main driving force for Byrne ahead of tomorrow's trip to Belfast, where he will come up against Ulster once more, is the competition from within Leinster.

Snapping

As well as Sexton, he has Ireland U-20 star and his own younger brother, Harry, snapping at his heels along with Ciarán Frawley.

The departure of Noel Reid to Leicester Tigers will allow for more game-time at 10 to be shared between the three.

Ulster will want revenge for their Champions Cup exit while building momentum for their PRO14 quarter-final the following weekend.

For Leinster, it's about showing your worth now, getting noticed.

"For individuals, it's a very important game because they want to be putting their hand up for selection for the big games at the end of the season," Byrne adds.

"Every time you play for Leinster, you're expected to win.

"It doesn't matter who you're playing or where you're playing."

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