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'He's delighted, it means so much to him' - Cullen full of praise as Byrne marks return in style

Cullen also provided an update on out-half Harry Byrne, who was removed with a hip injury,

Ross Molony and Adam Byrne after the game.
Ross Molony and Adam Byrne after the game.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

AS THE CROWD shuffled out of the RDS after watching Leinster blow Zebre out of the water, there was only one name on everybody’s lips.

After a nightmare spell of injuries saw him miss almost two years of action, Adam Byrne marked his return to the Leinster team with two tries to cap an encouraging  performance full of energy and intent. 

“He’s delighted now, it means so much to him,” said Leo Cullen.

“It was really challenging for him the last period because he didn’t play rugby at all during the lockdown basically.

“He got very, very close and picked up another injury and was out for another chunk of time, but he’s shown great resilience and dedication throughout the process and the backroom team look after the player so well.

It’s been a frustrating one for him, but that’s part and parcel of the game, so he’s trying to stay the course and it’s great to see Adam (back) because he’s had to be so patient over a long period of time.” 

And while one Byrne stole the headlines, there was some concern for out-half Harry, who endured a difficult afternoon from the boot before being forced off midway through the first half with an injury.

“He’s pretty down there now, as you can imagine,” Cullen said.

“He’s frustrated, he just needs to get himself right. He takes a heavy bang in the hip and that just sometimes happens, these things happen. It stiffened up quite quickly.

“He was struggling for mobility, so we’ll see how he recovers over the next couple of days.”

 Without ever looking anywhere near their imperious best, Leinster were able to cruise to a seven-try win against a limited Zebre side.

The home side struck for two early tries from Scott Penny and Jordan Larmour, but then laboured through the rest of the opening period, their unforced errors going unpunished as Zebre struggled to show any ambition of their own.

Byrne, making his first apperance since December 2019, finally crossed for try number three just before the break to put some extra gloss on the scoreboard, and added his second after the break as Leinster reasserted their dominance with four second-half tries.

“I think we started the first half in similar fashion, got in for a couple of tries as well, missed a couple of opportunities, then it gets a bit disjointed,” Cullen added.

“Some of that is Zebre coming aggressively, shooting out of the line, putting guys under pressure. And maybe we’re also trying to force things a little bit too much, maybe trying to make things happen rather than just being patient, particularly when we’re in possession.


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“We saw that a little bit last week (against Dragons) as well, so we had a number of turnovers in the second half of the second half, which means we don’t build any consistent pressure.

“The start of the second half was good and we’re just a lot more accurate in everything we were doing. 

It’s a bit mixed feeling in the dressing room there, some good stuff, Adam Byrne coming back is great, scoring a couple of tries, a few of the guys playing for their first competitive outing of the season.

“It was always going to be a little bit of a challenge for us, that cohesion bit, but it’s round three, it’s a short block, so in terms of round four now next week Scarlets will pose a much more stern test you would imagine.

“We’ll have a couple of guys probably back in the mix, and again that’s the challenge, trying to build this team cohesion.

“It’s not straightforward, but it’s another win, we’re three games in and we just want to keep battling for every single point in this block which is quite short.”

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey chat all things Connacht, Munster, Leinster and Ulster — and welcome back the AIL — on The42 Rugby Weekly

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Ciarán Kennedy

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