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Dublin: 14°C Friday 18 September 2020

Could Ross Byrne climb from 4th-choice out-half to Sexton's chief replacement before Japan?

With the Irish camp seriously concerned by Joey Carbery’s fitness, his former club team-mate may steal a march on his fellow Ireland backups.

Ross Byrne training with Ireland in Faro, Portugal.
Ross Byrne training with Ireland in Faro, Portugal.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

MURRAY KINSELLA DIALED into this week’s The42 Rugby Weekly podcast from Portugal, where Ireland are undergoing warm-weather training less than a month out from their flight to Japan.

But while Murray’s spirits were nearing an all-time high as he sat on a veranda outside Eoin O’Malley’s pub amid 30-degree heat, he relayed to fellow analyst Bernard Jackman and presenter Gavan Casey back home the Irish coaching staff’s concern over the fitness of Joey Carbery, who is now a significant doubt not only for kick-off in Yokohama but the whole tournament.

Carbery’s former Leinster team-mate Ross Byrne — who missed out on selection for Ireland’s poor Six Nations campaign — will start at out-half versus England at Twickenham this Saturday.

Only last week, the lads suggested Byrne may unluckily miss out on a seat on the plane to Japan (Carbery’s fitness pending), but suddenly, the 24-year-old has an opportunity to perhaps even force his way into second choice — certainly not for want of ability on Jack Carty’s behalf, but simply due to Byrne’s similarity to the main man at 10 for Ireland, and how a handover from Sexton to Byrne may be more seamless.

Gavan: “Bernard, you touched upon it last week — how you quite rightly feel that Ross Byrne is the more like-for-like replacement for Johnny Sexton, but also just in terms of what Ireland will probably try to do from minute one in a Test and in those World Cup games. How much is this an opportunity for him to really shore up that he can fill Sexton’s boots at international level given he has only had two caps previous?”

Bernard: “Yeah, I think it’s a massive opportunity for him. I think it’s obviously very difficult to go to Twickenham and get 50 minutes, 55 minutes, to prove you’re a World Cup contender — and you’d probably have liked for himself and Carty to have had more opportunities over the last two years to really get some gametime with Ireland. But the reason I was kind of pushing Ross Byrne last week is because I do believe he has the big-game temperament from a 10 to go in and boss the team, and I think playing with Johnny in Leinster and being an understudy to him is an advantage to him (Byrne).

“And again, he’s surrounded by a very strong side. So he has the things around him that you probably need: to go and get away and be a part of camp down in Portugal, and it being announced early that you’re going to play is a positive for him. I hope he goes in there and has a big opportunity and puts the pressure back on Jack Carty, because you want as many players on form as possible going into the competition.

“You want them all to be on form and for Joe to make the choice based on what he needs out of each player given their individual attributes.”


Murray: “That’s a really interesting point, also, about the style of player Ross Byrne is — that’s been alluded to in both media days here: Richie Murphy (kicking coach) was talking about it, and Joe Schmidt again.

There’s is a kind of similarity there, I guess, between Byrne and Sexton and how they play; they’re kind of organisers, they’re demanding personalities, and that’s probably impressed the Irish coaches as well — that Ross Byrne is willing to step up and give really accurate feedback; not just demanding things out of players, but actually suggesting ways of improving what they’ve done.

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“Carty is a slightly different player: he’s organised Connacht really well but he’s probably more fluid, creative, and his tactical kicking is obviously excellent as well. Joe did mention that they think he can control a game as well but it is interesting that Ross Byrne is probably that more similar player to Sexton.

“We’ve seen that at Leinster, and how he was picked ahead of Carbery, really, as a backup 10 a lot of the time, with Carbery playing 15 when they were in the same squad. It’s interesting that it’s flipped from Carty being the backup to Sexton in the Six Nations and playing three times, and Byrne kind of being on the outside… And now he (Byrne) is getting this big start.

“They did mention that Carty will get a lot of gametime as well, though, so they’ll both have their opportunities.”

Murray joins Bernard and Gavan with all the latest from training camp in Portugal, including a concerning update on Joey Carbery’s fitness. Plus, BBC Scotland’s Tom English explains why the Scots have a negative perception of Joe Schmidt’s Ireland team.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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