Leinster looking to telepathic energy between Byrne twins
Bryan and Ed Byrne say they have moments of deeper understanding while on the pitch
Leinster’s Bryan Byrne, Garry Ringrose and Ed Byrne arrive for their encounter with Southern Kings last month. Photo: Gary Carr/Inpho
Brothers playing together in Leinster is nothing so rare as Siberian blizzards in March.
The current rhyming couplets are the Kearneys, Rob and Dave and the Byrne brothers outhalf Ross and his Irish under-20 brother Harry. There are others.
Last week the frontrow pair of Bryan and Ed Byrne lined out in the Leinster pack against Southern Kings for their debut pairing at that level. It was the first Pro14 game the twin brothers started locked together in the scrum, having both come off the bench for Leinster against Cardiff last September.
Unlike Rob and Dave – who could conceivably be competitors at fullback and Ross and Harry – who will be competitors at outhalf, although there is six years between them – Ed and Bryan have it nicely divvied.
Ed is a prop, Bryan is a hooker, which throws them together but not so close as to be at odds with each other for selection.
Raised in Carlow, where Sean O’Brien has dominated the rugby skyline, the two went to Clongowes, from there to the Irish under-20s and last week into Leinster’s Pro14 campaign.
“It’s the first time we started together. That was a nice moment,” says hooker Bryan, who agrees the relationship works, even on a level other than teamwork.
“Yeah, yeah we have ( a good relationship),” he adds. “I suppose I’d know him inside out playing with him. I’d probably throw the off load 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. So yeah it was very a nice time starting together.”
The magical mysteries associated with multiples is that they share a special connection beyond that of ordinary siblings. The twin bond is always a unique relationship and there is a precious quality in that it is seen to be endowed with extraordinary, seemingly telepathic, qualities.
The phenomenon is assumed to be more common in monozygotic, or identical twins because they share a closer genetic connection. Ed and Bryan are identical.
“I’m three minutes older. He’s probably a bit more dominant personality wise,” says Bryan. But is it Hocus Pocus or does it actually work?
“Actually I do (think it works),” he says. “Even in terms running lines and things on the pitch, the way he (Ed) would carry or if he is going to throw the off load, or if he took it early I’d know he was carrying so I kind of expect him to understand if I am going to pass to him or whatever, running a line off me if he’s outside me.
“We have that understanding. Even before games we’d talk ‘listen this might be on’ especially in the scrum we’ll talk to each other, see what the tighthead is up to and help each other out.”
It all helps. Much of the work the players do at Leinster with Stuart Lancaster is playing loose ball, simulating playing conditions where the structure breaks down and players act on what they see in front of them. For hookers and props alike it is a vital grounding.
It is, says Bryan the small differences between players that often gives them an edge over others. They all have to scrum or they will not be on the pitch. But the other modern essentials such as Sean Cronin and his ball carrying pace as a hooker is a case in point.
“Most of the sessions we’re doing with Stuart is unstructured attack and we’re constantly put in those situations in training. So when it comes to games, it’s second nature,” says Bryan.
“It’s definitely a key focus. When it is this competitive, you’re always looking for that key point of difference with other front-rowers. So we’d constantly be looking at that, catch-pass and running lines off nine and 10, basically putting our hands up for selection as best we can.”
It can be a benefit in other ways too. The referee can’t tell them apart.
“Yeah we actually were (mistaken) this year,” he says. “I think Ed was captain for the (Leinster) ‘A’ game and the ref kept looking at me. It took a bit of time to realise that we were twins.”
The chill winds are all out doors for now and even for the Carlow deity O’Brien, his recovery from a hip injury is gathering pace.
Given this block of matches during the Six Nations and O’Brien likely to have to play with Leinster before returning to camp with Joe Schmidt, the Carlow triumvirate could at some point find themselves on the pitch together playing in the same Leinster pack.
It may not be the same psychic connection they have as twin brothers. But it would be emotional.
“He’s treated like a god down there,” says Bryan. “It is nice coming into the academy when you are young to have someone like that around. I remember him coming over to the house and showing us a few cooking skills. He has always been good to us.”
“You go down to Carlow you’ll know that he is the main man down there. Coming in on day one, I kind of knew him. I’d met him a few times in school. You have that instant connection.”
Not quite the empathy of having played with his twin since the Carlow under-8s. But we know what he means.