Saturday 20 July 2019

Byrne twins determined to make their mark at Leinster

Ed (left) and Bryan Byrne during a Leinster training session. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Ed (left) and Bryan Byrne during a Leinster training session. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

There was a moment earlier this season during Leinster's British and Irish Cup pool game against Bristol that the referee repeatedly looked to Bryan Byrne and relayed instructions as if he was the captain.

The man that the ref should have been looking at however, was the loosehead packing down next to him in the scrum. That's the trouble when you have an identical twin.

It wasn't the first time that it had happened and it won't be the last, especially not after the pair made their first senior start for Leinster last week.

"The ref kept looking at me, it took a bit of time for him to realise that we were twins," Byrne smiles.

Since their early playing days in Carlow, the Byrne twins have regularly been mixed up, but they are on course to ensure that people can tell them apart from here on in.

"I've an older brother, a year older (lock) and the three of us togged out for the first time for Carlow RFC," he says.

Ed is a powerful ball carrier who after a nightmare injury spell in which his career was almost ended, is showing why Leinster kept so much faith in him.

It has also been a slow bedding-in process for Bryan, who has had to bide his time behind the likes of Sean Cronin and Richardt Strauss.

The intuitive understanding between the two is natural and as Byrne explains, they have had that since their Carlow days right through to when they went to Clongowes and now with Leinster.

"I'm three minutes older but he's probably a bit more dominant personality wise," he laughs.

"We get on very well. I suppose I'd know him inside out playing with him. I'd probably throw the off-load to him before I'd throw it to someone else because I know he is expecting it.

"Especially scrumming together I'd know what he wants in terms of set-up and stuff we'd always be comfortable. So yeah, it was very nice to start together.

"Even in terms of running lines on the pitch - what way he'd carry or if he is going to throw the off-load or if he took it early I'd know he was carrying, so I kind of expect him to understand if I am going to pass to him or whatever, running a line off me if he's outside me.

"We have that understanding. Even before games we'd talk, 'listen, this might be on' especially in the scrum we'll talk, see what the tighthead is up to and help each other out."

Dinner-time conversations in the Byrne household centred around the goings on in the front-row and as riveting as that was for the other family members, the twins couldn't help themselves.

After Sean O'Brien really put Carlow on the rugby map, the Byrnes have followed suit but they know they have some way to go before creating the kind the legacy that the Tullow native has in the county.

"He's treated like a god down there," Byrne maintains.

"It is nice coming into the Academy when you are young to have someone like that around. I remember him coming over to the house and showing us a few cooking skills. He has always been good to us.

"You go down to Carlow you'll know that he is the main man down there. Coming in on day one, I kind of knew him.

"I'd met him a few times in school but you have that instant connection. Even after games he would come up and say I did this well or look at that clip. He would always be giving pointers."

Now, having gotten their first start together against the Kings, the aim is to build on that against the Scarlets on Saturday, and try put themselves in contention for the Champions Cup quarter-final clash against Saracens.

"For us, it's important to try and play well in this period and then, hopefully, when the bigger games come to try and get the nod," Byrne adds.

"Once you're in and out of the team every few weeks it's tough to get momentum. But if you're playing decent minutes every week, every second week it's a lot easier to gel in."

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