Meet Bryan Byrne. Or is it Ed? Truth is, it’s hard to tell with the Carlow twins, who are both making inroads in Leinster’s front-row. More than one referee has found it hard to separate them, so the likelihood is that opponents have, too.
“Yeah, we actually (got mistaken) this year,” Brian said this week. “I think Ed was captain for the ‘A’ game and the ref kept looking at me. It took a bit of time to realise that we were twins.”
The Byrnes have been making life hell for officials, ever since they started lining out together with Carlow RFC’s U8s.
Their differences are almost invisible to the eye. Brian is three minutes older; Ed has the more dominant personality.
“We get on very well,” said Bryan. “I’d know him inside out, playing with him. I’d probably throw the offload to him, before I’d throw it to someone else, because I know he is expecting it. Especially scrumming together, I’d know what he wants, in terms of set-up and stuff. We’d always be comfortable.”
Both are forwards who can play some ball, so they fit in well at Leinster, and last Friday’s annihilation of Southern Kings, in the RDS, was their first start together with the senior team. A nice moment, obviously.
The bragging rights, as they are, rest with Brian, for now.
Not just because he has featured four times more with Leo Cullen’s squad — and has scored six tries to one — but for the fact that he has appeared twice off the bench in the Champions Cup this year. Ed has yet to tick that box.
With Sean Cronin busy with Joe Schmidt’s Ireland squad and the Six Nations, and James Tracy just returned from an enforced absence of his own, Bryan Byrne should have ample scope to impress still further in the near future.
“The fact Sean is away with Ireland is one less to compete with. There is serious competition in the squad, with Richardt (Strauss) and James here. For us, it’s important to play well in this period and then, hopefully, when the bigger games come, to try and get the nod.”
It’s tempting to say that the Byrnes are starting to feel at home in their elite environs, but, then, that’s always been the case, given they were warmly welcomed into the squad by their fellow Carlow man, Sean O’Brien.
The international back-row “is treated like a god down there”, but has never acted like someone above mere rookies in the big smoke. Byrne still remembers him calling over to their digs and showing the youngsters a few cooking skills, in the early days.
“Coming in on day one, I kind of knew him. I’d met him a few times in school, but you have that instant connection. Even after games, he would come up and say I did this well or look at that clip. He would always be giving pointers.”
It’s working for now, with both Byrnes.
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