Harry Byrne lasts only 31 minutes as Leinster reassert league dominance 3 months ago

Harry Byrne lasts only 31 minutes as Leinster reassert league dominance

"The Irish management obviously have high regard for him."

Back in October, Harry Byrne jumped the outhalf queue ahead of the likes of Billy Burns, Joey Carbery, Ben Healy and his older brother, Ross.

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The 22-year-old had made his senior Ireland debut in a whopping summer 2021 victory over the USA. Ahead of the Autumn Nations Cup games against Japan, New Zealand and Argentina, we had a chance to hear from Ronan O'Gara on that set of games.

During a group interview, that covered a range of topics, the former Ireland outhalf, and current La Rochelle coach, gave his take on Harry Byrne being groomed for a stint in the No.10 jersey.

"I think what Harry Byrne needs to do is place himself consistently on a rugby pitch," said O'Gara.

"He hasn't done that this season, he's had injuries for Leinster this season, he's been selected but had to pull out, then another game he did play but got injured in. As a young out-half you need a lot of reps, you need a lot of minutes in the jersey and he's been deprived of both of those.

"The Irish management obviously have high regard for him and he's been announced in the squad and they're looking to give him an opportunity, but 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."

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Not long after those O'Gara comments, Byrne did get his second cap in another healthy home win, over Argentina this time. Injuries have struck again, though, to impact on his season, and his Test ambitions.

Against Benetton Treviso, this afternoon, Byrne lasted only 31 minutes before he had to be replaced by winger Dave Kearney. He went off clutching his ribs after first receiving treatment on the pitch.

Having more than doubled his game minutes for Leinster, over his past four games, all involved with Byrne will be hoping his latest set-back does not sideline him too too.

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Ireland players, from left, Robert Baloucoune, Ryan Baird and Harry Byrne during the national anthem before the Autumn Nations Series match against Argentina, in November 2021. (Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile)

'Harry Byrne has an awful lot of strings to his bow' - Ronan O'Gara

The loss of Harry Byrne did little to slow the Leinster juggernaut in Italy, this afternoon.

Leinster beat Treviso 61-17, with hookers Sean Cronin and James Tracy getting two tries apiece, and fullback Jimmy O'Brien helping himself to a double, too. That victory sees them leapfrog Ulster, who hammered Cardiff in Belfast on Friday night.

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The end of the Six Nations, in just over a fortnight, will see the club seasons ramp up with big United Rugby Championship and Champions Cup fixtures coming thick and fast. Leinster will issue a Byrne update in due course, but both they and Ireland do seem to feel he is worth investing a lot of time and effort in.

In the past week, both he and his older brother Ross were among a swathe of Leinster players to sign contract renewals. Ronan O'Gara certainly does see potential in the Dubliner. During that same interview, late last year, he said:

"Harry 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. That's very important for Joey and Harry. They need to be 7/10, 7/10, 6/10, 8/10, 9/10, 8/10, 7/10, as opposed to 8/10, 2/10, 4/10, 8/10 – that just doesn't work."

Fitness first, consistency next.

Can't have one without the other. Fans, coaches, teammates and Harry Byrne will hope the latest injury does not keep him away for too long.

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