Tuesday 18 September 2018

'There's a journey to go on' - Luke Fitzgerald on what Ross Byrne can learn from the great Irish out-halves

12 May 2018; Ross Byrne of Leinster watches team-mate Jonathan Sexton prepare to kick a penalty during the European Rugby Champions Cup Final match between Leinster and Racing 92 at the San Mames Stadium in Bilbao, Spain. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
12 May 2018; Ross Byrne of Leinster watches team-mate Jonathan Sexton prepare to kick a penalty during the European Rugby Champions Cup Final match between Leinster and Racing 92 at the San Mames Stadium in Bilbao, Spain. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Independent.ie Newsdesj

Luke Fitzgerald has said that Ross Byrne should look at the careers of Ireland's greatest out-halves as he continues to develop as a first choice number ten.

Leinster opted to keep Byrne over the summer, with Joey Carbery moving to Munster to get more game time at number ten. Byrne has enjoyed plenty of success with the team at out-half, regularly deputising when Johnny Sexton has been unavailable.

However one area of his game that isn't yet at an elite level is his goal-kicking ability, with Byrne missing two costly penalties in Leinster's 23-21 defeat away to Scarlets last Saturday night.

Despite his occasional struggles from the kicking tee, Luke Fitzgerald thinks Byrne can take solace from the fact that top Irish tens like Ronan O'Gara and Johnny Sexton had similar problems early in their careers before developing into ultra-reliable kickers.

"Even the great kickers like ROG, he struggled early in his career but by the end he never missed," Fitzgerald said.

"The more pressure was on, the better he kicked and Johnny [Sexton] is probably at that stage as well. I think there is probably a journey to go on. Ian Madigan is a really good kicker now but he missed kicks as a young guy, he'll tell you all about that. Johnny would say the same. ROG would definitely say the same. The Heineken Cup final against Northampton probably haunted him but made him a better kicker. There's a journey to go on with Ross and I think he will go on it."

Commenting on Leinster's defeat, Fitzgerald also criticised new signing Joe Tomane's decision to keep the ball alive on the left wing with an offload in injury time. Leinster were turned over shortly afterwards and Fitzgerald explained why he isn't a huge fan of offloads.

"I didn't like the offload for the last passage of play, even though it did come off," Fitzgerald said.

"You hear all these people saying 'offloads' but offloads don't make you a better team. It really doesn't. You have to dominate the contact. I would rather back the team, especially when they are so well-rounded. You rarely see the All Blacks offload when they aren't dominating the contact. They back themselves to hang onto the ball. I always think it's a real rookie thing to say 'look how many offloads'. It's a weird stat to look at."

Subscribe to The Left Wing, Independent.ie's Rugby podcast in association with Laya Healthcare, with Luke Fitzgerald and Will Slattery for the best discussion and analysis each week. From in depth interviews with some of Irish rugby's biggest stars to unmatched insights into the provinces and the national team, The Left Wing has all your rugby needs covered.

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