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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Michael Scully

Nothing's changed, insists Ross Byrne, as he keeps his focus off Six Nations selection for Ireland

Ross Byrne knows by now that nothing can be gained by getting excited ahead of Ireland's Six Nations squad selection.

Everyone could see what it meant to Byrne, 27, to kick the winning penalty against Australia last November.

Emotion spilled out of the Leinster no 10 as he emerged as the hero of a game that he had no prospect of playing in until Joey Carbery got injured against Fiji and Johnny Sexton pulled up in the warm-up before the Wallabies game.

READ MORE: Champions Cup winner Dave Ewers to join Ulster in the summer

But it was his first Ireland involvement in 18 months, all the way back to the 2021 Six Nations.

Prior to that his Test career had failed to take off, partly because he was thrown in at the deep end at Twickenham not once, but twice, and Ireland lost on both occasions.

So you can forgive him if he is playing it cool ahead of Andy Farrell's squad release tomorrow morning.

In fact, he's not even crossing his fingers. “No," Byrne smiled. "Whatever happens, happens.

"The only thing I’m thinking about is Saturday and that’s against Racing. That’s all I can control. Hopefully put in another good performance and we will get another win.

"The only thing I care about is Leinster winning. There’s no point in me worrying about what other people in my position are doing. It’s not going to help me in any way.

"Like, it's generic, it's boring, but nothing's changed in my mind.

"I've probably spent enough time over the years worrying about elements outside, things that aren't in my control.

"I'm in a pretty good headspace at the moment and that's just focusing week in, week out."

The big question is whether Farrell will pick another specialist out-half in the Byrne mould - the nearest thing he could have to Johnny Sexton in terms of playing style - or will he feel he has enough with Sexton, Joey Carbery and Jack Crowley on board.

Sexton is still recovering from cheekbone surgery and hasn't returned to contact training, while Crowley injured his ankle last weekend and Munster will assess him this week ahead of their trip to Toulouse.

So Farrell may even give himself some elbow room by including Byrne as cover in the circumstances.

However, Munster duo Carbery and Crowley can play across the backline whereas Byrne only has last season's experience at centre to call upon.

It could yet cost him a place in the World Cup squad come September, but there's plenty of rugby to be played before then.

“I’ll play wherever the coach needs me to play," stated Byrne, who understands that the general perception towards him has shifted - in a good way.

That vital cameo against Australia reminded people what he can do and, with Sexton absent for most of the campaign through injury, Byrne has been outstanding as the playmaker in a free-scoring Leinster backline.

"Like, sport is funny," he reflected. "Someone can do something one week and they're a hero and then the next week they're the villain.

"It's the same with teams. Things change very quickly in sports.

"So it's just trying to be as consistent, that's the key thing. That's probably what keeps people onside.

“I'd gone from not being in the Ireland squad to that Monday evening, I was in. I wasn't expecting to play against Australia on the day of the game.

"So no, I don't really think it's changed. From my perspective it hasn't really changed anything day to day, to be honest.

"But, like I said, it has probably changed the perception for other people. It's just trying to work on it and it;s probably just people maybe noticing a little bit more now."

Still, Byrne knows he's playing well as Leinster look for the win that will cement their place at top seeds for the Champions Cup knock-outs.

He had a similar feeling last year, but he is certain that his game has improved over the last 12 months and more.

Experience has played a part, as has the input of coaches past - Felipe Contepomi - and present - Stuart Lancaster and Andrew Goodman driving his improvement.

"I have definitely improved in different areas," said Byrne.

"The team has grown a lot, there are a lot of lads who have been here a few years and it is probably showing on the pitch that we have come a long way.

"We still have a good bit to go but with myself it's the same - just little bits and pieces each day."


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