Sunday 17 November 2019

Byrne eager to follow Sexton's 'world-class' example at No 10

Ross Byrne
Ross Byrne
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Anyone who has watched Ireland U-20 out-half Ross Byrne will have noted the ever-growing similarities with a certain Johnny Sexton.

In his second year with the U-20s, Byrne is the pivotal cog in a backline whose reputation continues to grow despite losing to England last time out.

The defeat at Donnybrook ended Ireland's hopes of a Grand Slam but their Six Nations Championship hopes are still very much alive and a win in Wales on Fright night is crucial.

The comparisons between Byrne and Sexton are sure to continue to grow as rapidly as his reputation does, but for now, the 19-year-old is happy to learn from "the best out-half in the world".

"When you're watching him, you have to admire him. He's probably the best out-half in the world right now, I don't think there's much doubt about that," Byrne said.

"He's pretty much got it all - you can see that from his overall game. His game management is probably what sets him apart from everybody else.

"Every out-half can kick and break and that but his decision on when to kick and when to run is probably what makes him the best."

Under Nigel Carolan, Ireland's exciting brand of rugby has won admirers from several quarters and as the one pulling the strings, Byrne is relishing the pressure that comes with that.


His relationship with scrum-half and captain Nick McCarthy is one that has developed during their time with St Michael's College and with the Leinster Academy and Byrne believes that their intuitive understanding not only benefits them but the team as a whole as well.

"It's brilliant to be a part of this team. Not just in the starting XV but there's huge depth in the backline right throughout the squad," he maintained. "We can play so many different ways and score tries from anywhere because we have so much pace and ability in the backline. It's pretty entertaining as well which is great."

Byrne's reading of the game on the pitch has been one of the most eye-catching aspects of his play but his maturity off it is just as fascinating.

"Even when you win, it's one of the things that often gets glossed over. There's always mistakes that need rectifying no matter what the result is. If you get away with them one week, you might not get away with them in the next. That's probably down to how honest you are with yourself in the review and how much you want to improve."

He has a long way to go before being in Sexton's class but Byrne is already on the right path.

Irish Independent

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