Friday 27 January 2023 Dublin: 4°C
# Debut Day
'I was thinking, ‘Am I ever going to get a cap?’' - Ireland's Ross Byrne
The Leinster out-half came off the bench to help Joe Schmidt’s team beat Italy.

Murray Kinsella reports from Soldier Field

ROSS BYRNE, SUCH a composed and assured presence on the pitch, seemed a little stuck for words off it after making his Ireland debut against Italy in Chicago.

The Leinster out-half played the closing 20 minutes of Ireland’s win, replacing Joey Carbery and contributing some nice touches as Joe Schmidt’s side finished strongly.

Ross Byrne Dan Sheridan / INPHO Byrne played the final quarter of the game for Ireland. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

An hour after the final whistle, the achievement hadn’t really sunk in yet for the 23-year-old, who was planning to sing something by the Dubliners for his obligatory song in front of his team-mates after cap number one.

“It’s an incredible feeling, a very proud day,” said Byrne before being asked how much the achievement means to him.

“It’s massive,” replied Byrne. “It probably hasn’t even hit me yet, it’s still sinking in. It seems like it all happened so quick. I’m sure as the hours go by I’ll reflect and be absolutely delighted.

“I was delighted with the overall experience but there’s a lot to work on. That’s obviously my first taste of international rugby and it was quite quick.

“The ball was in play for a lot of it, but there’s definitely a lot to build on. I was reasonably happy with how I took the ball to the line, but I can definitely improve as well. But overall I was happy.”

Byrne’s immediate focus on what he can do better next time speaks volumes of how he approaches his trade.

He slotted two of his three conversion attempts but the miss after Jordan Larmour’s final try rankled.

“It’s still killing me a little bit, to be honest… A lot actually. I just have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

A view of Ireland's Ross Byrne's jersey in the dressing room Dan Sheridan / INPHO Byrne's first Test match jersey. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

The perfectionist in Byrne will hone in on the improvements he can make, but to get his international bow was another big step forward in his ever-developing career.

Byrne was part of Ireland’s tour of Australia in June and was on the bench for the decisive third Test but was unfortunate to remain unused that day.

“I was thinking, ‘Am I ever going to get a cap?’

“That’s just the way it is, but obviously I was lucky enough to get a cap today and I was delighted with it.

“I definitely knew what was expected of me coming back in, and I knew the systems, so the plays and stuff weren’t new to me.

“It definitely gave me a massive advantage as opposed to being fresh in and learning everything from scratch. I did have all of that knowledge there and it was just to recap and then build on that.”

Byrne had several nice passes in his 20-minute stint on the pitch, including finding Bundee Aki for his linebreak just before Garry Ringrose’s try.

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It’s an area of the game that Byrne has been pushing himself hard in, keen to round out his skillset.

“It’s definitely something I’ve gotten a lot better at in the last two years,” said Byrne. “I wouldn’t say it was a weakness but it was something that I could definitely have added to my game a lot more.

Ross Byrne and Luke McGrath speak with Greg McWilliams Dan Sheridan / INPHO Byrne and Luke McGrath with USA attack coach Greg McWilliams. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“It’s definitely getting better but it can be even better again. It’s something I’m very conscious of day in day out, whether it’s here or back in Leinster. I’m getting great help with it so hopefully I can push on.

“It’s just being comfortable on the line with the ball and also just seeing what’s in front of you, if there is an opportunity to have a go yourself or if I can get to a defender and make him step in, just a combination of everything.”

While Johnny Sexton will be at out-half against the Pumas and All Blacks in the coming weeks, barring injury, Byrne is hopeful of further opportunities either off the bench in those Tests or against the US on 24 November.

“Getting a taste for it now, we’ll review and I’m sure there’s lots that I can do a lot better in that game.

“I’ll review that and try to get better each week and if I get the nod to play again, just try to take the chance with both hands and be better.”

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