‘Leo put a lot of faith in me and I was grateful for that’

STARTING THE SEASON as Leinster’s fourth choice out-half, Ross Byrne has had to be patient for his chance but once the opportunity presented itself, he made sure he seized it with both hands.

The former St Michael’s College student is expected to be named in Leo Cullen’s side for Saturday’s Guinness Pro12 clash with Cardiff Blues, having already played an important role in the province’s campaign.

It would probably be stretching it to say he was thrown into the deep-end before Christmas but with Johnny Sexton, Joey Carbery and Cathal Marsh all sidelined through injury, Byrne was the last 10 standing at the club.

He stood up and performed over an important period and his form since has been such that Cullen has opted to shift Carbery to fullback for the Six Nations block.

Byrne has made 15 appearances for Leinster this term, including eight starts, and although Sexton will come back into contention for the run-in, the 21-year-old isn’t prepared to give up the jersey easily.

“I’ve had a great run of games so can’t complain about that,” he said. “Pretty happy with how I’m playing myself.

“I’d say it’s a great thing for Leinster, we all have pretty unique points of difference. I suppose it gives the club great variety and a number of different options, depending on how they want to play.

Byrne in training at UCD this week. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“Obviously we’ve got some massive games coming up now towards the end of the season — massive game against Cardiff this week. We’re fully focused on that.”

Byrne, who has scored 64 points from the kicking tee this season, featured in all four of Leinster’s victories during the international window as Cullen’s young charges averaged 44.5 points per game.

That run of form has seen Leinster surge to the top of the standings, two points clear of Ospreys, and Byrne admits being in a dressing room playing with so much swagger is a real confidence boost.

“Obviously it’s brilliant scoring so many points,” he continued. “It’s pretty satisfying because a lot of the things we do in training pitch are coming off in matches. It’s pleasing to see so many points on the board and scoring so many tries. We can only keep getting better

“I remember people saying to me “just be patient’ but it’s a lot easier to say that than actually do it. I got back from injury and played a few games and then just got really lucky because the other lads happened to get injured. It gave me a chance.

“The more you’re playing, the more comfortable you feel. The confidence is obviously up when you’re in a team averaging 45 points a game, that makes a big difference.

“It’s been a brilliant season so far, it’s important to keep pushing on and hopefully get some silverware at the end of it.”

The 21-year-old has scored 64 points this season. Source: Ian Cook/INPHO

Leinster continue to fight on two fronts and while the focus is on the resumption of the Pro12 this weekend, there is also the small matter of a Champions Cup quarter-final against Wasps on the horizon.

“Hopefully I will get to start that game, or play in it anyway,” Byrne says of that Aviva Stadium showdown on 1 April.

“Hopefully I’ll get to play as much as possible in the big games and try and impacy them as much as I can.

“The league is so tight this year too, it’s probably the tightest it has been in years. We want to get a home semi-final so it’s very important that we stay at the top of the league.

“We can’t slip up or teams behind us will catch us. It’s very important that we get the win against Cardiff.”

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