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Byrne, Sexton and Frawley – Felipe Contepomi discusses Leinster's options at out-half

Harry Byrne is facing more time on the sidelines due to a hip injury.

Leinster coach Felipe Contepomi.
Leinster coach Felipe Contepomi.
Image: Ben Brady/INPHO

FOLLOWING A WEEKEND which saw a promising young Leinster out-half struck by injury before their veteran 10 delivered an impressive display off the bench, it felt like an opportune time to discuss the province’s depth in the position with Felipe Contepomi.

Harry Byrne’s first appearance of the season proved to be a hugely frustrating one for the 22-year-old. Byrne made a number of errors and missed two conversions before being forced off with a hip problem just 22 minutes into Saturday’s win over Zebre.

His replacement, 36-year-old Johnny Sexton, subsequently helped steady the ship and delivered a handful of high quality moments against the limited Italians, suggesting he is motoring nicely after his extended break over the summer.

The latest on Byrne is that he will miss Saturday’s home fixture against Scarlets, with the province awaiting a further update on the full extent of the issue.  

“Very unlucky, what can we say?” says Contepomi. “It’s one of those knocks that you get in rugby.

“I feel sorry for him because he has been training hard and he’s been on and off with niggles and injury and some sickness (last season)… It’s another setback but hopefully nothing major.

harry-byrne-receives-medical-attention Harry Byrne suffered a hip injury against Zebre. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“I think in terms of his mentality he’s good, he’s a guy who always tries to see the positives and so on. But yeah, I can imagine it’s a setback and he was so keen to get back after a very weird injury as well on the foot, and coming back he put some great effort in to work himself back into the team.

“So it’s a personal upset probably, but he knows he needs to keep on track and get himself stronger and better and make sure he gets it right.”

And what of Sexton’s encouraging start to the new campaign?

“When you are a player like Johnny, at his age, it’s about keeping fit and making sure he keeps up with the pace of the game because he has 20-year-old boys running quick and fast. So you need to keep at that pace.

Now, having said that, Johnny is looking like a good Bordeaux – the older he becomes, the better he is getting.

“I think he needs to keep (being) himself and put it in perspective. He is wise enough and experienced enough to take it week-by-week. He understands that he needs to keep himself fit, make sure his fitness (levels) are up. When he steps (out on the pitch), there is no one with more experience in the team than him.

“He has a natural rugby brain, very, very good rugby brain. It’s excellent to have him around.”

Another player proving to have a good rugby brain is Ciarán Frawley, who has provided plenty of creative spark while wearing the 12 shirt.

Having started his senior Leinster career playing out-half, Frawley has been almost exclusively used at centre over the past 18 months, with his most recent start at 10 coming back in February 2020.

And it sounds as if Leinster aren’t planning on putting him back in the saddle at 10 any time soon.

“Well that’s not a problem, but that’s a problem when you’re such a skilful player, they keep putting you in different positions and you can you fit in in different positions,” Contepomi explains.

ciaran-frawley Ciarán Frawley's last start at 10 came in February 2020. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“So in some ways it’s a good thing and it can become a (good) problem and luckily we have a few of those in Leinster. For them (the players), it’s good for them to always keep in mind how they have to keep working and making sure they are up to speed in all the positions.

“In terms of Frawley at 10, 12, all the positions, even 15, he can cover and sometimes be a genuine option at 15.

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“In terms of the 10 position in Leinster, I personally I think we are very lucky with the No 10s we have here.

“Starting with Johnny, Ross (Byrne), Harry. We have three top-class No 10s. And Frawley would be there also if we need him to cover 10. He is a good option for us in the way we function.

“At the moment, he is a good option at 12 and that’s where we are seeing him. But definitely he (can) play 10 if he’s needed.”

Meanwhile, Contepomi also praised Adam Byrne for his positive attitude after the wing scored two tries on his return from a long-term injury absence.

“Probably the first goal in his mind – and I haven’t spoken specifically to him about it – but the first thing you want is to put 80 minutes under your belt, and then after that keep improving on the little things,” Contepomi said.

“He’s very eager. Even throughout his injuries he’s been coming and looking to improve his game knowledge. Even when he knew he might not play for the next six months, he was asking questions to see how the team was evolving and so on, and that’s probably what made him come back and not look like a guy who didn’t play for two years.

“So I’m delighted for him and hopefully he can keep it up and keep improving and put himself available for the big days.”

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Ciarán Kennedy

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