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The emerging stars of the 2019/20 season: Harry Byrne

The 20-year-old Leinster out-half trained with Andy Farrell’s Ireland squad before the Six Nations.

FOR EARLIER PIECES on some of the young players who showed their promise in senior rugby in the 2019/20 season, click here.

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Two years of international rugby with the Ireland U20s told us plenty about Harry Byrne’s potential.

His older brother, Ross, had done the same before advancing into the Leinster’s senior squad and on towards full Test caps for Ireland.

Harry has yet to tick off the final part of that journey but the 20-year-old has already trained with Andy Farrell’s squad, joining them as a ‘development player’ for their pre-Six Nations camp in Portugal this year.

harry-byrne-arrives Harry Byrne was played for Leinster nine times this season. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Still in his second year with the Leinster academy, 2019/20 has been Byrne’s first season with the province’s senior squad and he has squeezed a whole lot of quality into a short space of time to underline his potential.

His talent was well-flagged as he came through St Michael’s College, Dublin and on into the U20s set-up to be the starting out-half in 2018 despite being a year younger than most of his team-mates.

Byrne returned to the U20 fold last year and started the first four games of Ireland’s Grand Slam before he was sidelined through injury for the final fixture against Wales, and then missed the 2019 World Rugby U20 Championship with a hip issue.

Byrne’s growth as a player hasn’t slowed this season, though, with a senior Leinster debut off the bench against Benetton in September and then a first professional start at out-half against the Dragons in November.

In total, Byrne has featured nine times in the Pro14 this season, making three starts and scoring two tries, as well as kicking one penalty and 19 conversions for a success rate of 71% off the tee.

While Byrne hasn’t yet featured in Europe for Leinster, it is obvious that he will be in the future. He also looks close to a certainty to win Test caps if his progress continues. 

leinsters-harry-byrne Byrne offers kick, pass, and run threats. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

A confident and composed young player, Byrne is a willing carrier of the ball – as 10 defenders beaten and three clean linebreaks this season show – and that willingness to threaten the line is likely to be a key component of his game in the coming years, ensuring defenders have to respect his ability to run.

Byrne has the potential to develop into a genuine triple threat of run/kick/pass in attack.

He has assisted three tries for Leinster this season with his passing game, while putting team-mates away for linebreaks a further three times.

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Byrne’s kicking game has shown signs of becoming a major strength too, with one kick assist for a Leinster try in this campaign, as well as a further three of his kicks being regathered by team-mates.

The Byrne brothers clearly spent a lot of their youth working hard on kicking from hand and Harry’s skills in this regard will only develop with the increased tactical understanding that comes with exposure in senior professional rugby.

Defensively, Byrne will see scope for improvement after a tackle success rate of 76% this season but his 6ft 2ins frame should allow him to develop more physicality and consistency in this area.

Ireland boss Farrell is clearly a fan of Byrne’s potential, having brought him on that training trip to Portugal, but the out-half will appreciate the need to continue focusing on his rise with Leinster before any international involvement on the pitch.

harry-byrne 20-year-old Byrne trained with Ireland this year. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

34-year-old Johnny Sexton is the Leinster captain, while 25-year-old Ross Byrne is now well established as an important and consistent player who usually thrives at 10 when Sexton is absent.

22-year-old Ciarán Frawley is another excellent talent at out-half in the Leinster squad, with the Skerries man having shown his ability since debuting in early 2018.

But there is now understandable excitement and expectation around 20-year-old Byrne, who will aim to continue his development when rugby returns.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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