Kildare flyer ready to make the most of chance to shine
A try in just his second senior start for Leinster has Kildare native Adam Byrne high on confidence, and he is determined to make the most of every chance that comes his way during the Six Nations.
With Dave Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald injured, and Fergus McFadden, Rob Kearney, Ian Madigan and Johnny Sexton away on Ireland duty, opportunities for game-time are greater than usual for the Leinster backs.
Consecutive starts against Dragons and Zebre - where Byrne bagged his first try for Leo Cullen's side - has the 21-year-old academy prospect feeling part of the squad and he is hopeful of making more of an impact in the weeks to come.
"It's great for the club that there are 15 players in Irish camp at the moment but for the rest of the lads in the squad it is a good opportunity, especially for a few of the younger players," says the UCD winger.
"I have always been made feel comfortable in here. It's pretty close-knit environment. When a bunch of the squad was away at the World Cup, it was extremely tight throughout that tournament.
"Once I got to play against the Dragons, I was a bit nervy before the game, but I feel a little bit more comfortable now. Whenever I have been asked to step in and train with the seniors I have always been made to feel comfortable."
A broken leg slowed Byrne's progress last season, but the Biomedical Engineering student worked his way back to fitness with the Ireland Sevens team.
And he could yet feature at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, if Ireland manage to pick up a win in their remaining qualifying tournament.
"The Sevens was great, it gave me opportunities to get on the ball and get my confidence back. Even in terms of the pre-season it allowed me to come back a little bit fitter. That was a great bonus.
"When we first started off we weren't sure where it was going to go. I think we surprised a few people by winning the first few tournaments we were in. I'd love to play when it's not conflicting with other games.
"We have a chance at making the Olympics this year. There is one more major tournament and if we win that we go to the Olympics. We are quietly confident, we have been putting in the work and there have been a lot of camps going on.
"You can see some big names coming back to play it. Quade Cooper has been released for the Las Vegas Sevens, Sonny Bill Williams is obviously playing it.
"It's important to get the balance right. It's a great sport and hopefully the IRFU can tie it in together and work well accordingly."
But this weekend Byrne is aiming for selection for a tricky trip to Parma, and despite Leinster's recent big win in the RDS against the Italians, Byrne is primed for a tough night if selected.
"We are under no illusions, it'll be a tough challenge away from home. Zebre have a good record at home. They scored 34 points against Connacht and they ran Munster close.
"They are extremely tough to break down at home. Last season I think it was only 3-3 at half-time out there. We are looking forward to the challenge but we expect it to be tough."