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Ed Byrne driving on with Leinster as twin brother Bryan settles in Bristol

The 26-year-old Carlow men have been split up for the first time in their careers.

YESTERDAY, LEINSTER prop Ed Byrne was among the many people to enjoy the first Tuesday night of Premiership rugby in England as Exeter squeezed out a win in their top-of-the-table clash against Bristol.

Everyone who tuned was rewarded with a thrilling encounter but Byrne had a vested interest in events, with his twin brother, Bryan, starting at hooker for Pat Lam’s Bristol side.

Bryan had spent all of his career with Leinster up until earlier this year, when he departed for Bristol on loan initially, doing enough in a short period before lockdown to convince Lam that he was worth a one-year contract.

bryan-byrne-and-ed-byrne-arrive Bryan and Ed Byrne before a Leinster game last season. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

And so it is that the 26-year-old Byrne twins have been split up for the first time in their rugby-playing lives. The Carlow men came through Clongowes Wood College together, winning a Leinster Schools Senior Cup, before progressing up the ranks of their native province but the realities of professional rugby mean Bryan set out for England this year.

Two starts in Bristol’s first three games since rugby’s resumption is a fine return for Bryan. Leinster prop Ed explains that the pair of them still speak practically every day on the phone, although it’s still a little strange being apart.

“We were obviously living together as well, so it’s a big change,” said Ed. “The main thing is he’s getting on really well and he’s at a good club and getting some good game time, so it makes it easier from that point of view. So far, so good and it’s working out well.

“I’m just excited for him now, they’re in a really good spot, second in the Premiership, there’s definitely some big games coming up for him and that definitely makes a difference when they’re competing and he’s involved.

“He was over there for a long time during the lockdown and he was living on his own over there and they weren’t training either, obviously, so it was definitely challenging.

“Overall, I’m just delighted that he’s getting so much game time so far.”

The last 18 months has also seen Carlow natives Sean O’Brien and Tom Daly departing Leinster – leaving Ed flying solo in representing the county.

Daly is now with Connacht, while O’Brien has already captained London Irish having only joined the club late last year.

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“I met with Sean over the summer before he went back, he was in great form and really excited by the prospects London Irish have – they have made some really good signings,” said Byrne.

ed-byrne Ed Byrne is keen to kick on with Leinster. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“Coming in the first game as captain shows the mark of the man and the leader he is. He was constantly setting standards around here and I’m sure he is doing the same over there.”

While Bryan has left Leinster in pursuit of those playing minutes, Ed is happy where he is and ambitious for the months ahead.

Cian Healy is the first-choice at loosehead prop but Byrne and Peter Dooley are in competition behind him, with academy prospect Michael Milne another option.

Byrne made three Champions Cup appearances earlier this season and came off the bench in last weekend’s win over Munster, while he’s set to play against Ulster this weekend too. All in all, he’s happy with how things are going.

“It’s obviously a competitive position but I want to be as good as I can be and I think this is the best place for me,” said Byrne, who used the lockdown to fully recover from a neck injury and also put on some muscle mass.

“I think everything’s going in the right direction, we played some really good stuff before the lockdown and then started off with a really good win against Munster and hopefully we can kick on again. It’s a really exciting few weeks ahead.

“It [the Ulster game] is a big opportunity ahead of going into finals rugby. Everyone wants to be a part of that and put their hands up.

“It’s a massive incentive going forward and that’s why this game will be a huge target for the 23 players playing because you want to be involved the week afterwards.”

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