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Leinster's Ross Byrne has earned his shot with Ireland in Australia

Joe Schmidt said the out-half was happy to stay at home when offered the chance to move to Ulster.

Murray Kinsella reports from Brisbane

ROSS BYRNE ISN’T the sort of player who grabs the headlines, so the reaction to his inclusion in Ireland’s squad for the three-Test series in Australia made for a well-deserved change.

It only lasted a day in truth, as the uncapped Leinster man’s name retreated into the background when Joey Carbery and his move to Munster became the hotly-debated topic of Irish rugby last week.

Ross Byrne Byrne in training with Ireland. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Byrne is a man who sometimes goes uncommented on or even unnoticed in the middle of an excellent Leinster performance – but this points to one of his strengths.

Despite still being 23, the out-half rarely makes errors. This season, he has often been a beacon of decision-making calm and skill-execution composure at the heart of teams containing block-busting talents like James Lowe or Jordan Larmour.

An unfussy and seemingly self-confident personality, Byrne has impressed Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt, who will be watching with intrigue over the next three weeks as the former St. Michael’s College student adapts to his new surroundings.

Having missed out on involvement in Ireland’s wider squad during this year’s Six Nations and instead garnered further valuable experience with Leinster, Byrne is now in Schmidt’s group for the first time.

Having covered at 10 while Johnny Sexton was away with Ireland or resting up, Byrne’s strong form is one of the reasons that Carbery is heading south to Munster next season.

With previous Ireland third-choice out-half Ian Keatley having lost his place at Munster at the tail end of the campaign, Schmidt has given Byrne his chance and hopes that his growth continues.

“He’s done a really good job,” said Schmidt of Byrne. “You can’t dispute that he’s a great sort of back-up to Johnny, and even his game management – he’s been in here for one training [last Thursday at Carton House], and he takes responsibility very quickly and takes it with a real maturity that gives confidence to the players around him.

“That’s how you get your cohesion, that people know where they are meant to be, they know what they’re meant to do and he’s really taken that mantle on pretty quickly.

Ross Byrne Byrne was an important player for Leinster this season. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“So from that perspective, I think he’s done a really good job. He’s kicked out of hand pretty well and his goalkicking has been pretty sound.”

While Carbery’s ability and versatility meant Byrne missed out on the matchday squads for Leinster’s biggest games this season – including the Champions Cup quarter-final, semi-final and final, as well as the Guinness Pro14 decider – he did still rack up an impressive total of 26 appearances, including 19 starts.

Byrne will expect to have even more of an impact for Leinster next season, as well as being in their 23 for all of the biggest games, but he was an important player with his contribution under Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster in a very successful campaign.

The storyline around Carbery got more attention last week, naturally enough, but it’s worth remembering that Byrne also had a chance to move to Ulster and become their main man at out-half next season.

Schmidt said that Byrne had stressed his happiness at Leinster when that opportunity was presented to him, and the Ireland head coach is simply glad to have a player like Byrne staying in Ireland to compete and add to the national team’s depth – when others have opted to leave.

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“Ian Madigan left and went to Bordeaux to start at 10 because it wasn’t happening here,” says Schmidt.

“And part of that in my discussion with him was that he wanted to go away and make himself into the sort of 10 that would be a starting 10 at one of the provinces, should he get back in time for the World Cup when he was first going away [Madigan subsequently moved to Bristol]. And JJ Hanrahan went away to Northampton.

Ross Byrne Byrne hopes to make his debut in Australia. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“We certainly want to keep the depth of talent that we can within the country so the good thing with Ross – I had a very, very brief chat with Ross and said, ‘Look, have you got any interest in going to Ulster?’ and he said, ‘No, look, I’m happy with Leinster, I’ve had 16 starts’ or something at the time.

“There was no hesitation in his mind that he was in a really good environment and he was making really good progress, and you can’t argue with that.”

Nor can you argue that Byrne has earned his shot on this Ireland tour.

After breaking new ground with Leinster this season, he will now be hoping that his Test debut comes at some stage in the next three weekends.

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