Leinster urged to give Ciarán Frawley 10 jersey after tough Ross Byrne news
"La Rochelle are going to target him."
Ross Byrne will be cursing his luck after undergoing a procedure on his arm that will rule him out until 2024. The misfortune for Byrne now leaves Ciarán Frawley, Harry Byrne and Sam Prendergast vying for the 10 jersey.
Leinster issued an injury update on Tuesday, ahead of their Champions Cup opener against La Rochelle. That update had some good news about Alex Soroka (back in training) as well as the recently returned Cormac Foley and Cian Healy, who both featured in a tight win over Connacht. However, the news was not so good on two backs.
'Ross Byrne had a procedure on an arm injury last week and will be unavailable until the new year.
'Jamie Osborne picked up a shoulder injury in the win over Connacht and is having a procedure this week and will be unavailable for selection, as a result.'
That pair join Tommy O’Brien (ankle), Luke McGrath (knee) and John McKee (hamstring) in the injured/rehabbing group. Ross Byrne would have been intent on reasserting himself as Leinster's main 10, after the World Cup, but he must now stew on the sidelines.
On the latest House of Rugby, myself and Leinster legend Lindsay Peat both advocated for Ciarán Frawley to get the next batch of games in the 10 jersey, to see if he has what it takes in the role.
Ciarán Frawley backed to start
This weekend, Leinster travel to Stade Marcel-Deflandre to take on their European bogey side, La Rochelle. The French outfit have beaten the Blues in each of their last three encounters, in consecutive seasons, including two Champions Cup finals.
Coaches Jacques Nienaber and Leo Cullen must decide between Ciarán Frawley, Harry Byrne and Sam Prendergast for the starting outhalf role. Peat believes Frawley should start against Ronan O'Gara's men.
"I'd go with Frawley," she said. "Think about it - he brings on the gainline, he's very physical, runs straight lines and knows his stuff, inside out. If Leinster start with Harry Byrne, La Rochelle are going to target him."
Frawley played much of Leinster's URC win over Munster as outhalf, off the bench when Byrne was injured, but starred as fullback in the recent victory against Connacht.
Harry Byrne got a run of games in the 10 jersey, at the start of the season, and was back in that starting slot for the Connacht game. The one thing that could see Frawley held back is his versatility. If Leinster opt for a 6:2 or 7:1 bench split, Frawley's ability to cover across the backline could see him held in reserve.
The Harry Byrne situation is a curious one. For the past few seasons, many people I have spoke with have raved about his abilities and his potential. Andy Farrell saw the promise he brought, too, when he capped him in 2021 and was keen for him to overtake Joey Carbery as the Test player backing up Johnny Sexton.
Byrne has shown it in games against Sharks, Munster and Glasgow, in past seasons but they are as fleeting as they are great to watch. The biggest criticism against Byrne so far - and remember, he is only 24 - is that he has not kicked on yet. It is hard to argue otherwise.
He has been unfortunate with injuries, but there comes a time when you need to settle any lingering arguments or doubts. Ross Byrne, the elder brother, did as much, in Leinster blue anyway, by stepping up in big European games. Harry is into his fifth season with the senior squad but has not had that big European match yet.
If he features against La Rochelle, on Sunday, it will be Harry Byrne's 60th Leinster appearance. 32 of those appearances have been starts with 29 in that No.10 jersey.
Leo Cullen started him as outhalf in the first 10 games of the season and did likewise against Connacht. If it was any other side than La Rochelle at the weekend, he would probably start Byrne without hesitation.
This is La Rochelle, though, so Frawley could get a big opportunity to lock down that much-coveted role and show the French side something a little different.
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