No sibling rivalry for Byrne brothers as Harry follows Ross
Harry Byrne looks like his older brother Ross, plays a similar type of game to him, speaks as confidently as him, and now, he is hoping to follow in his footsteps.
There are just over six years between the Ireland U-20s out-half and the man who will pull the strings for Leinster over the coming weeks.
As a pair of out-halves growing up, playing ball in the back garden didn’t exactly involve knocking lumps out of each other but rather how they could help each other avoid the big hits.
Byrne was instrumental in sparking Ireland’s comeback against France last week, and while his side ultimately came up short in their Six Nations opener, there were plenty of positives to take into tomorrow’s home game against Italy.
At the same time that Harry will be looking to steer Ireland’s campaign back on track at Donnybrook, Ross will line out in Edinburgh as Leinster resume their PRO14 challenge.
Byrne will have a new half-back partner in Hugh O’Sullivan, as the scrum-half is one of four changes to the starting XV.
While it is not inconceivable that the brothers will be vying for the same spot at Leinster in the not-too-distant future, they have a close relationship and constantly help each other out.
“We get on very well,” Harry says.
“When we were growing up, we would play in the garden, kicking the ball around, but we never really did anything serious with each other.
“He’s obviously very handy to have as he’s always been a very good goal-kicker, so if I’m ever having any issues he’ll be good to help me out with stuff like that.”
Both players possess an excellent kicking game, while in a hostile atmosphere last week, Harry showed that he can be as reliable a goal-kicker as Ross.
“We are similar in ways and obviously play differently in other ways,” Harry explains.
“I do copy some of my game from him but obviously I’m trying to have my own spin on it as well. He’s always been a very good place-kicker so that’s always something I’ve tried to get up to.
“He’s a good kicker out of hand and a good passer so I’ve tried to match those things and bring my own things too.”
Ross also came up through the U-20 ranks and was an excellent under-age player – making 15 appearances in the two years he played.
Now Harry is aiming to follow his lead.
“It’s much clearer in your head,” Harry maintains.
“You see every step it takes to go up. It’s obviously been a massive help. We’d always have little bits on games. We watch each other’s games and criticisms go here and there.”
Byrne didn’t need to look too far for inspiration last weekend as he watched Johnny Sexton’s last-gasp drop seal a famous win in Paris.
Like all good students of the game, Byrne studies the likes of Sexton as well as former greats.
“I always used to watch (Ronan) O’Gara because I loved his kicking game,” he adds.
“I loved his low spirals into the corner and his place-kicking was unbelievable as well.
“But what I like is Johnny Sexton’s running game and something I really try and model is getting second touches on the ball.
“That’s where he’s so good at making passes and pushing through the line.
“He’s got so many tries out of it, almost made a career of scoring tries from second touches, so his running game is something that’s really good.”
Ireland U 20s (v Italy, tomorrow, Donnybrook, 7.15) – M Silvester; P Sullivan, T O’Brien (capt), A Curtis, J McCarthy; H Byrne, H O’Sullivan; J Duggan, R Kelleher, J Aungier; C Daly, J Dunne; S Masterson, M Agnew, J O’Sullivan. Reps: E Clarke, J French, T O’Toole, C Ryan, R Foley, P Patterson, C Dean, A Kernohan.
Independent.ie's U-20s Six Nations coverage is in association with PwC