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'You can see every step, it's a massive help': Ireland 10 wants to follow brother's footsteps

As Ross Byrne lines out for Leinster on Friday, his younger brother Harry will be in action for Ireland U20s.

Harry Byrne pictured at the team hotel earlier in the week.
Harry Byrne pictured at the team hotel earlier in the week.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

THE SIMILARITIES — BOTH physically and in playing style — are striking and comparisons easy to make, but Harry Byrne intends to develop strengths in his own game which sets him apart from his older brother.

On first glance, you could be forgiven for mistaking Harry for Ross, or Harry for Ross, given their similar place-kicking technique, and certainly the former appears to be following a comparable career path to his older sibling, who has now played 41 times for Leinster, scoring over 200 points.

At the same time Ross is lining out for Leo Cullen’s side against Edinburgh in the Pro14 on Friday evening, Harry will be in action for Ireland U20s when they host Italy at Donnybrook.

Just as Ross, now 22, did, Harry has come up through the St Michael’s College system to represent Ireland at the U20s age grade, an exalted stage he hopes to exhibit his full potential on.

“Yeah very good, we get on very well,” Harry says of his relationship with older brother Ross.

“We always kind of did stuff together, growing up in the garden, kicking the ball around but never really did anything serious [rugby wise] with each other. He’s obviously very handy to have as he has always been a very good goal-kicker so if I’ve ever been having any issues he’ll be good to help me out with stuff like that.

“We’re similar in ways and obviously play differently in other ways. I do copy some of my game from him but obviously trying to have my own spin on it as well. He has always been a very good place-kicker so that’s always something I’ve tried to get up to.

“Ross is also a good kicker out of hand and a good passer so I’ve tried to match those things and bring my own things too.”

Having been a star in a St Michael’s jersey at Senior Cup level, Byrne — Harry, this is — has been involved with various representative teams, including the Ireland schools side, and last weekend made his U20s debut in the defeat to France.

Harry Byrne kicks Byrne kicked seven points last week. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

While Noel McNamara’s side showed initial nerves, which ultimately led to a disjointed and error-strewn first-half performance, they settled into the contest thereafter with Byrne scoring seven points from the tee.

Byrne, who is also playing AIL rugby for UCD, admits having a brother just two years older who has gone through the U20s route on his way to a Leinster senior contract is a massive help and clearly shows the pathway is there with the required level of hard work and dedication.

“We watch each other’s games and criticisms go here and there,” he continues. “But not particularly a huge amount of advice, we’d just always have a little bits on games.”

There will come a time when it’ll be you against him for the number 10 jersey at Leinster, won’t there?

“I don’t know, that’s miles away,” Byrne laughs. “The focus is on the 20s at the moment.”

The 18-year-old has been again named to start at out-half for the visit of Italy in round two and even in defeat last week, Byrne was a very assured and steady presence for Ireland in the pivot position.

His place-kicking appears to be a real strength and an ability to carry and get his team moving in the right direction also stands out, again bearing resemblance to his brother’s casual, but effective, playmaking style.

“There has always been a confidence there and a bit of a growth spurt recently enough helped me physically but I’ve always kind of felt confidence in myself,” he explains.

“I always used to watch Ronan O’Gara as I loved his kicking game. 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.

Harry  Byrne He also came up through the St Michael's system. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“That’s where he’s so good at making passes and pushing through the line. He’s got so many tries out of it.”

And as for Friday and a return to Donnybrook. McNamara has made four changes, including the inclusion of former Belvedere College man Hugh O’Sullivan at scrum-half to partner Byrne in an exciting half-back pairing.

With the U20s very much encouraged to go out and express themselves, a lot is expected of this young Ireland side.

“It’s definitely good because you’re still developing as a player so it’s important to have that free rein,” Byrne says of the encouragement they receive to play a free-flowing game.

“But obviously, there is structure in what you’re trying to do, it’s not free for all. Within that, we are given freedom to express ourselves and have a go.

“If we can benchmark our Six Nations on that second half performance against France, that’s what we’re looking for. We need to hit the ground running and get into Friday.

“They’ll be a physical side again but hopefully if we can get into our attack shape and move it around the park, we should go well against them.”

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