"Brave" Harry Byrne backed to lay down World Cup marker in New Zealand
"He is a lot more like that ruthless 10. A bit more like Johnny."
As soon as it was announced that Jack Carty underwent wrist surgery, the final outhalf spot in the Ireland summer squad was down to brothers Ross and Harry Byrne.
Despite having 14 Test caps to his name, 24 Leinster appearances this season and the backing of both Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster, Ross Byrne missed out and his younger brother got the nod. The 23-year-old was included, along with Johnny Sexton and Joey Carbery, for what will be a testing, five-match tour to New Zealand.
On House of Rugby URC [LISTEN from 26:40 below], Greg O'Shea, Lindsay Peat and Jason Hennessy discussed some of the big calls from that Ireland squad, and a huge opportunity for Harry Byrne to lay down a World Cup marker.
Harry Byrne 'very Johnny-esque'
Looking at the 40-man Ireland squad, Jason Hennessy is happy to see the Leinster backline trio of Jordan Larmour, Ciarán Frawley and Jimmy O'Brien included.
"Ireland really seem like they just want to get Harry Byrne in there, over Ross or anyone else," he added. "I don't know. Personally, I haven't seen enough of him yet.
"They obviously see more of him in training, and stuff, but I haven't seen enough of him in matches to say, 'This guy is going to be the saviour, to step up and replace Johnny Sexton'. Even can't say, yet, if he can be that deputy or over-take Joey Carbery. He'll definitely get a start against the Maori All Blacks."
Lindsay Peat finds it strange that Byrne, after three seasons, has just 39 senior Leinster appearances [21 starts] and has jumped ahead of players like Billy Burns and his older brother, Ross Byrne, in the Ireland pecking order.
"What I've heard about Harry," Peat said, "is that he is that bit more confident in training, and is a lot more like that ruthless 10. A bit more like Johnny, with the directing [of plays and players]... if you look at that Glasgow quarter final, he did come on for Leinster, dictated it well, the show-and-goes, bringing the ball up to the gainline. Very Johnny-esque."
Greg O'Shea points out that Harry Byrne playing some games at inside centre, this season, has provided him with that versatility card that others, like Burns, his brother, Jack Carty and Ben Healy cannot play. Byrne had three starts in the 12 jersey, this season, and covered it in a couple of replacement appearances. His brother has one previous start at outside centre. That flexibility, across is squad, is something Andy Farrell highlighted when he announced his squad, last week.
Speaking about Harry Byrne, earlier in the season, former Ireland outhalf Johnny Sexton was high on a couple of promising aspects of the 23-year-old's game.
'He has an awful lot of strings to his bow' - ROG on Harry Byrne
During a wide-ranging interview, earlier in the season, Ronan O'Gara stressed the need for Harry Byrne to 'place himself consistently on a rugby pitch'.
O'Gara made the comments when Byrne had only one sub appearance to his 2021/22 tally. Interestingly, the next game Byrne played was his second Ireland cap, off the bench, against Argentina.
"As a young out-half you need a lot of reps, you need a lot of minutes in the jersey," the La Rochelle head coach said, before adding, "The Irish management obviously have high regard for him." He continued:
"It's very hard for the Irish management to do anything if the player himself can't present fit on the Monday of a Test week. In that regard it's frustration for the player, it's frustration for the coach and for the whole team, because all the feedback on him is that he's an exceptional young player, but as you know at Test level it's very hard to talk about potential because you're not judged on potential, you're judged on the now."
Asked about the qualities of Byrne's game that stood out to O'Gara, the Munster legend said:
"He seems brave. He seems willing to have a go. He seems to trust his instincts and seems capable of getting his backline going. He seems fast and looks a good game manager.
"He has an awful lot of strings to his bow, but his challenge will be his consistency of performance. Can he back up big game after big game after medium game after big game after medium game? What I think young players fail to understand is that going from an 8/10 to a 2/10 doesn't work at Test level. Your bad days have to be 5/10 or 6/10."
Having recently landed in New Zealand with the full Ireland squad, Harry Byrne and his teammates will be give a day or two of rest and relaxation before hitting the training paddock.
With the First Test against New Zealand coming up four days after the Maori All Blacks opener, it is highly likely that Byrne will get the 10 jersey for what should be a fascinating game.
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