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'I told myself I wouldn't, I tried to not let the emotions get to me': A memorable day for Adam Byrne

The Leinster wing was the 36th man used by Joe Schmidt in this international window, but after showing he stands up to scrutiny in the centre he’ll float up the depth chart.

HE WAS THE last man out of the traps for Ireland in this November series, but Adam Byrne held up his side of the bargain in not one but two positions on his debut day.

A 38-man squad was named for the three Tests this month. Dan Leavy and Keith Earls pulled out with injury, but 35 of the remaining 36 were called upon by the time Fiji had been accounted for.

Waiting patiently, working diligently, five years after making his Leinster debut under Joe Schmidt, Byrne was genuinely happy just to be able to spend the month learning in Carton House even when he believed 2017 would close without an international cap to his name.

“Once I got in there, I just wanted to learn. I thought myself once the Fiji game was gone, maybe that was my chance gone,” says Byrne, standing proud in the Aviva Stadium.

“For me, I just wanted to learn as much as possible coming into a new environment with a great coaching staff and the best players in Ireland.

“Last week, I was a reserve and, even the whole experience, doing the warm-up, was incredible. I was kind of thinking this is where I want to be. It was incredible to get the nod (for Argentina).”

When the firework smoke starts to clear and the anthems play out on Lansdowne Road, a host of other emotions take over. A hint of a tear was spotted on the Leinster flyer’s cheek as the camera went down the line of players.

“You know, it was extremely emotional,” Byrne said, slightly abashed.

I tried to tell myself I wouldn’t, I tried to not let the emotions get to me, but it’s been something I’ve looked at since I was a little kid and it is hard to keep them under control when the anthem’s playing.”

The 23-year-old kept his emotions in check as he calmly went through his duties on the wing. An early play call and a terrific Conor Murray cross-kick almost gave him a dream try-scoring start, but the vicious spin made the score elusive. He was used as an outlet for Ireland to threaten from deep, but the critical analysis of his performance has already begun in his own head.

“Chris (Farrell) threw me a great pass under pressure, but yeah, I kicked probably a bit infield looking back, but it was good to get a bit of space. In your peripheral you kind of see the crowd stand up and you hear the roar. It’s been incredible.”

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Andrew Conway, Adam Byrne and James Tracy celebrate after the game Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Building his way onto this stage has taken the utmost amount of patience and dedication from Byrne, whose early provincial debut was left to stand on its own for a little over three years because of woeful luck with injuries. Right now is not the time to be looking back on that period though. Right now, he’s drawing breath and trying to take in his surroundings on the stage he’s dreamed of. Byrne is intent on looking forward and squeezing every drop of value from the experience he has accrued, and that showed when he stood into the defensive minefield that is outside centre for the final 20 minutes.

It’s not a position many have seen him play before, but the 23-year-old won’t bat an eyelid if he’s asked to play somewhere other than that right wing.

“When I started (playing rugby) I was on the wing, and then I think I slowly moved in; I think I got as far as playing 12 with UCD for a bit actually… but then I moved back out.

“U18’s and U19 I played a bit in the centre and fullback, and I stayed on top of it in pre-season, but hopefully I can get a chance again in different positions and obviously it’s nice if you’re number 23 to be able to cover a couple of positions.

“I was just trying to make sure I knew my detail as much as possible for the wing, I was probably maybe a little bit naive not looking at 13 as much, but that’s the thing with the team, everyone rallied behind me and looked out for me.”

A second cap isn’t too long away.

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