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'It's mad how quickly things can change': Byrne intent on pushing for European final berth

The hooker has yet to feature in this season’s Champions Cup, but with Sean Cronin a doubt he is intent on forcing Leo Cullen’s hand.

Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

FOR A CHUNK of Leinster’s squad, last season’s Champions Cup final must have felt further away than the mere geographical mileage in play.

Before Isa Nacewa kicked the winner in Bilbao, Bryan Byrne was captaining Leinster A in a B&I Cup final in Ealing and packing down alongside his twin brother Ed.

“We were hoping to get (the date) changed but they wouldn’t change it. So, we literally lost the B&I final and had grub while watching the lads win in Bilbao,” said Byrne as Leinster began shifting any lingering focus away from the Pro14 and towards their fifth European Cup final.

Defeat to the Trailfinders didn’t sting for long thanks to the result in the Basque country and, in the year since, both Byrnes have repeatedly delivered marked improvements and consistently excellent performances.

Ed, having overtaken Jack McGrath in the loosehead pecking order, is on track to play a part in Newcastle. But while the hooker has had to slot in behind both Sean Cronin and James Tracy in European competition this season, Bryan Byrne’s chances of joining his twin at St James Park are also increasing in likelihood due to the injury doubt surrounding Cronin.

Sean Cronin and Bryan Byrne Cronin and Byrne in training early this month. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“It’s mad how quickly things can change. I haven’t played Champions Cup this season and I’ve been very disappointed to miss out on numerous occasions. It is very competitive between myself, Sean Cronin and James Tracey. Then you’ve Ronan Kelleher as well, so I’m trying to put my hand up each week.

“Sean’s had a brilliant season, but if I do get a chance to play I’d absolutely love it.”

Cronin is one of the most destructive ball-carriers in game, but Byrne can force his coach’s hand if there is any lingering reason to doubt the Limerick man’s fitness.

“You know the more big games you play the easier they get,” says Byrne, backing his own credentials for the big occasion.

“I played against Montpellier away last year, Glasgow at home and even going down to Thomond this year – you just call on those experiences.”

He adds: “I’d absolutely love to be there, but we’ll have to wait and see.”

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Sean Farrell

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