Frustrations behind him
Harry Byrne is likely to remember Leinster’s 29-7 victory over the Ospreys with a bit more affection than teammates and supporters as it marked his first 80-minute performance of the season for which he won the official man of the match award while playing in the unfamiliar role of inside centre; albeit that he played 60-minutes there last week as a result of an injury to Ciaran Frawley.
The 22-year-old was part of a Leinster midfield axis that included his older brother Ross, at outhalf and Jamie Osborne (20) at outside centre. He admitted: "The fact that myself and Ross, we've both played 10 and both played centre, we're able to mix and match a bit. In terms of playing 12, you're not around the ball the whole time.
“You’re actually able to see the rest of the pitch a lot and then it’s probably the communication aspect of it that is the most important thing. There are some different things that I had to get used to, but I thought myself, Ross and Jamie felt pretty comfortable out there.”
Harry admitted that it had been a frustrating season to date with niggling injuries curtailing his game time but he remains positive. He's also had support from Ireland head coach Andy Farrell who spoke to the young Leinster player recently and told him to "get back fit, get playing."
Byrne added: “It’s very frustrating. Off the pitch you just have to do what you’ve got to do to get back. When you get back, you’ve got to take your chance, try to string as many games together as you can.”
He retains a preference for the number 10 jersey but at this point he’s just grateful to be back on the pitch and playing, a trend he’d love to continue in the coming weeks and months ahead.
Number of the week
67: The number of tries that Simon Zebo has scored for Munster following a hat-trick in the province's victory over Edinburgh at Thomond Park.
Quote of the week
And if they come back to bother us, we'll be here. And like in a rugby match, we will not move back an inch. We will continue to defend ourselves, because this, this is our home.''
Gloria Mertoli, captain of the Sicily’s Briganti Librino women’s team, speaking at the opening of the new rugby pitch. The previous one, along with the clubhouse had been burnt out by the local Mafia in 2018.
Celebrate in style
It was a special weekend for three players, Dave Kilcoyne (Munster), Sean Cronin (Leinster) and Kieran Marmion (Connacht) who each made their 200th appearance for their respective provinces; and all three celebrated the occasion with victories.
Kilcoyne became just the 12th Munster player to reach the landmark in the win over Edinburgh at Thomond Park, the 33 year old loosehead prop having also won 45 Ireland caps.
Limerick born hooker Cronin received a standing ovation at the RDS when introduced as a second half replacement in Leinster’s victory over the Ospreys and within minutes had celebrated with a trademark gallop down the wing.
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen said: “He’s great, a character. Incredible (when) you think of it, 200 caps for Leinster now and what, 70-odd caps for Ireland (72), then whatever between Munster and Connacht, 60 or 70 caps as well, so it’s a hell of a lot of games of professional rugby.
“He’s very, very popular amongst the lads. He’s in a slightly more mentoring role with some of the younger guys that are coming through as well, but he’s still very ambitious himself to push his case always. He’s doing a bit of coaching with Mary’s as well. It’s great to see him hit that milestone.”
Marmion (30), who has won 28 caps for Ireland scoring five tries, was a key figure in Connacht’s superb win against the Scarlets, the scrumhalf providing a typically quicksilver service in a fine all-round performance.
Eben Etzebeth’s decision to quit Toulon and return to play for the Sharks in South Africa next season drew some criticism from former Springbok secondrow Bakkies Botha, who previously won silverware - European Champions and Challenge Cups and a French Top 14 title - with the French club.
The 30-year-old Etzebeth cited personal reasons for ending an unhappy season and a half with the French club, whose defeat at the weekend has seen the former three-time European champions fall to the bottom of the French Top 14.
Botha said in an interview in Midi Olympique: “Eben Etzebeth? Incredible fighter, best secondrow in the world, but I regret that he only shows his best face with the Springboks. In Toulon, he is still a little injured, concussed and in the end, never plays.
“Obviously, he was not made for France and he will turn his back on the problems the club went through to return to South Africa. It’s disappointing. I love Eben, I repeat. But you can’t say when you arrive in Toulon ‘I want to be champion of France’ and leave later without having marked the club in one way or another.
“His first season was not bad but it is not enough. When you recruit a world-class player, it’s for him to make a difference.”