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Dublin: 9°C Monday 8 March 2021

'I really want to own that jersey and play in the big games, play in the finals'

Leinster winger Adam Byrne is itching for the new campaign to start after an extended pre-season.

ADAM BYRNE IS raring to go, so much so that Saturday’s Pro14 opener against Benetton can’t come quickly enough. It has been a long pre-season for the players, none more so than Byrne, who missed Leinster’s run-in due to a quad injury.

The winger was forced to go under the knife as a season of real promise ended in deep frustration, but after a summer of rest and rehab, Byrne is back in peak physical condition and ready to hit the ground running at the Stadio Monigo. 

adam-byrne Byrne hopes to start Saturday's game in Italy. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Having enjoyed a largely injury-free run last term and, in turn, produced a string of consistently excellent performances, Byrne started 13 games for Leinster and had earned his shot on the wing in big European games against Toulouse and Ulster.

Instead of playing his part in the Champions Cup and Pro14 finals, Byrne had to watch on from the sidelines but the layoff was used to work on other aspects of his game, as the 25-year-old bids to build on what he did last year.

Without encountering any hiccups on his road to recovery, Byrne was able to feature heavily during the pre-season block, scoring a try against Coventry and getting useful minutes under his belt against Canada and Northampton.

“I’m itching for the start of the season,” he says. “I was rehabbing at the start of pre-season so it felt pretty long for me. Watching all the rugby that’s going on at the moment in the World Cup I just can’t wait for the season to start. 

“I want to keep building, keep growing, get better as a player and hopefully that will bring more opportunities for me within Leinster and hopefully bigger things on top of that.”

Starting with Saturday’s clash against Benetton, Leinster have six Pro14 games between now and the start of the Champions Cup in mid-November, at which point the internationals will have returned from the World Cup.

With the arrival of Cian Kelleher adding to the competition in Leinster’s back three, Byrne is keen to make the most of his opportunities during this first block of the campaign to ensure he’s in a strong position once the European action rolls around.

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“Everyone wants to own the jersey and we don’t want to give it up when the lads come back from the World Cup,” he continues. “We want to do the best we can in the Leinster jersey so when they come back, there is a bit of competition there and it is not going to be easy. We are giving the coaches tough choices to make.

“In certain positions, there are a lot of people out, in other positions the younger lads are going to get a chance. It’s an exciting time for the club.”

adam-byrne-scores-a-try The winger scored in the pre-season win over Coventry. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

As for his own ambitions of establishing himself on the Leinster wing regardless of who is available, Byrne says: “That is a goal for me. I am 25 now. It’s been my dream to play for Leinster since I was 12 or 13 and started getting into rugby.

“Yeah, I really want to own that jersey, play in the big games, play in the finals at the end of the season, get on the pitch when we are lifting some silverware. That’s a long term goal, short term it’s about training well and taking it game by game.”

Overall, using the confidence gained from last season’s performances, Byrne is in a good place heading into the 2019/20 campaign.

“I feel pretty good,” he adds. “When I was injured I had a lot of time to work on myself as a person and as a leader. I have been doing mindfulness for the last year and a half, that has really helped me stay in the moment and just take a step back.

“I do feel really confident. Maybe at times I don’t notice, some people will say, ‘you look confident or your confidence is back’ but I don’t notice it at the time. I do feel really good physically and mentally and I just can’t wait for the season to start.”

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Ryan Bailey

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