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Contepomi and Ruddock influence helping Harry Byrne 'declutter' his game

The younger Byrne brother has no shortage of influential figures as he sharpens his attacking instincts.

HARRY BYRNE RECKONS he was most likely ‘playing behind the stands’ at the RDS while Felipe Contepomi was in his prime, playing centre stage.

However, that has not stopped the Argentine from bringing a strong influence in developing the young number 10′s game.

Throughout this season, in the wake of Joey Carbery’s departure, Contepomi and his fellow Leinster coaches have quickly slipped the 19-year-old into any conversation on out-half depth, alongside Ciaran Frawley, right behind Jonathan Sexton and older brother Ross.

Harry Byrne Byrne poses for an U20 photo-shoot in Dublin this week. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Entering his second year at U20, Byrne is feeling his game grow and his attacking instincts sharpen thanks to the step from his province’s sub academy to academy.

“(It) means you’re in and around those lads, Ross and Johnny, being around them is a massive help,” says Byrne.

“In the past (he and Ross) would be telling each other about stuff, now we’re both seeing it. Getting tips and stuff off him, it’s been brilliant.”

Ross will always be an influential figure, but the current Ireland U20 playmaker is also benefiting from a wealth of coaching experience at his disposal. Not only in Leinster, but on the club scene with Lansdowne, where Mike Ruddock has – most likely unwittingly – played a Marie Kondo-esque role in helping Byrne pick and choose the moments he sparks joy.

I’ve found Mike a massive help. He has kind of decluttered a few things in my head a bit and, similar to Felipe, just made the game simpler. That’s been a massive help to me.”

“A lot of his focus would be on the speed of the ball from the breakdown. If it’s slow ball and there’s not much happening, there’s not much point trying to create on slow ball.

Harry Byrne Byrne in Lansdowne colours this season. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“So if an opportunity comes, take it. But don’t be afraid to get down the other side of the pitch.

“When the ball is quick, he doesn’t care where you are on the pitch, he’s happy for you to play. He’s been brilliant with me, let me do my thing a little bit.”

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In a way it feels like a contradiction, but the separate voices have helped push Byrne in the one direction, because the messages are clear and consistent.

“Stuart and Felipe have been good in training. Felipe, in particular, has been really good for me, telling me to get square at the line and be more of an attacking threat.

“It’s definitely been a massive help. Also helps that you’re playing with better players than yourself. So the standard is higher in there and you’re expected to raise your game and if you don’t, you won’t be there long.

“Listening to it you might think it’s basic stuff, but it’s not, it’s just really simple clear instructions. He makes it a lot simpler.

Harry Byrne Byrne at the wheel for Ireland in last year's Six Nations. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“‘Do this’, ‘go at people and things will unfold a little bit.’

“For me, it’s about taking more direct routes, taking the ball on more has been a massive help.”

With head coach Noel McNamara setting up his side to move England around Musgrave Park, those attacking directives will be put to good use tomorrow night (kick-off 19.15) when Byrne gets the campaign under way.

His turn to take centre stage while young hopefuls play on out of shot.

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Join us to preview the Six Nations with Simon Zebo, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey on Thursday @7pm in Liberty Hall Theatre Dublin.

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Sean Farrell

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