Joe Molloy and former Ireland and Ulster centre Darren Cave discussed Harry Byrne's performance against Ulster on Monday Night Rugby.
Harry Byrne is a big name in Irish rugby.
Andy Farrell likes him. Brian O'Driscoll likes him. Pretty much everyone likes him.
Byrne's rising star put him in the Ireland squad ahead of the in-form Jack Carty. He is also clearly ahead of Munster's Ben Healy now in terms of Ireland selection. With Joey Carbery taking the playing time at Munster ahead of Healy, Byrne is in position to become Leinster's primary starter as Jonathan Sexton is continually managed.
Ross Byrne started against Ulster. His brother replaced him on the 64th minute.
In just 16 minutes of game time, Harry failed to impress either Joe Molloy or Darren Cave. But it's not just that he didn't make a positive impact, he made a noted negative impact on the game.
"This isn't that I've got major concerns over Harry Byrne, but maybe these are the games you'd love to see him do more at this stage," Molloy said.
"I was keeping a close eye on him. He kicked out on the full early on when he was outside the 22. In another moment Leinster were on the attack and he was around the edge and Adam Byrne was outside of him, he tried to kick him through. He kicked it out on the full as well. 77th minute, this was Leinster's last real chance off a lineout...maybe the player alongside him overran the line a touch, but it wasn't the most sympathetic pass either."
That pass was dropped and Leinster's loss was secured.
As a returning Ireland squad member, Byrne should expect to elevate his performances in these games. It's not that he's above this level now, but he's advancing to a higher tempo of rugby. If he is to be an Ireland starter in the future, these are the games where he proves himself with consistent game-breaking moments.
Darren Cave isn't necessarily down on Byrne's potential, but he's yet to see the hype with his own eyes.
"There seems to be a huge hype about him," Cave said.
"I've seen him play, I haven't seen him play week-in, week-out like most people who follow Leinster religiously. I actually completely agree with you Joe in regards to the weekend. It ended up being a costly call for Leinster [to bring him on]. My perception of the Byrne brothers it that Ross is so good at his job that it's almost boring, and that Harry has a wee bit of magic dust about him.
"I felt at the time, even as an Ulster fan, that Leinster's process was coming good."
It was 10-10 at that point. Cave thought Leinster were going to kick on and win the game. Bringing Harry on to replace Ross played a big part in proving him wrong.
"We hate the phrase, but 'forcing it' came to mind with Harry Byrne. I just wonder did that change it. Is he more likely to pull a rabbit out of a hat? Can he do things from an x-factor point of view that Ross can't? But ultimately when it comes to sticking to a plan if Ross had have stayed on it felt like at 10-10 Leinster had momentum and were on their way to winning 20-10 themselves.
"That was the way I saw it."
Former Munster and Ireland player Fiona Hayes came to Harry's defence.
"I think it's tiny margins and it's lack of game time. He does have that x factor. We've seen it in parts. But it's been such a long layoff for these guys. He got injured a couple of times so he's been on and taken off straight away. He's up with the Irish lads and we didn't really see him. We're all talking about the x factor, we're just not seeing enough of it.
"I love the way he plays on the gain line...The more game time he gets, the more we'll start seeing it pay off."
Ross Byrne trained with Leinster for the last month, whereas Harry trained with Ireland and barely played. It makes sense that he would be a little bit more out of sync than his brother.
He's still just 22 years of age, so it's still far too early to start writing him off. But Byrne is entering the stage of his career now where he is expected to play well and not just a hope for the future. The scrutiny is coming and he will have to match it with performances on the field both for Leinster and, hopefully, for Ireland.
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