Legendary Munster and Ireland out-half Ronan O'Gara says Harry Byrne desperately needs more minutes under his belt if he is to be a credible option for Ireland.
The Leinster player came off the bench for Ireland in their final Autumn Nations Series game against Argentina. However, Byrne has also accumulated 40 playing minutes for his province this season.
Rugby writer Gerry Thornley suggests that game time in the All-Ireland League may help Byrne to be better prepared for the step up to international level.
O'Gara has argued that Byrne's development as an alternative #10 requires more immersion in proper match scenarios.
O'Gara joined Ger Gilroy and Eoin Sheahan on Thursday's OTB AM. He says that Ireland's player development strategy may not always be in sync with Leinster's own plans.
"What's obviously happened is that Ireland have realised that for World Cup planning in 24 months' time, Harry Byrne looks a juicy option for the Irish team," O'Gara stated.
"For that to happen, his development needs to be accelerated. It'll be accelerated at international level. But what happens is you get better the more minutes you play and the more mistakes you make."
"From Leinster's point of view, they are judged on the now and what happens in the short-term, " O'Gara added. "So, Ireland development becomes secondary, as Leinster want silverware."
O'Gara: "You don't get better in the gym, but by playing games"
However, O'Gara also argues that solutions won't be found by looking across to France or England.
"You're coming back to two models that are incomparable," O'Gara insists. "The strength of the Irish model is that everything is done with [a view towards] getting the players ready for Ireland. The strength of the English model is their history and pride. In the French model, it's because they go hard after a league."
"Marcus Smith is an out-half in one of 14 clubs in the Premiership, and then there's also a Championship. So, in that system there's probably an opportunity for 50 out-halves; in Ireland, there's an opportunity for, at most, 12 out-halves."
"What is becoming more and more obvious now is that when your path is blocked at one of the provinces, when you're a young professional coming into the game, you need to have a look. They need to develop their game."
"You don't get better by being in the gym; you get better by playing games," O'Gara continued. "Yes, you can get better by being in a really good environment and learning from other players, but that lasts maybe 12 months, and you've got put that into practice in a game situation."
"You've a fair chance of playing for Ireland if you start for province"
O'Gara warns that simply imitating the French and English models would result in the loss of the unique values of the Irish game.
"The strength of the Irish model is that you have local players who have immense pride playing for the provinces."
"If you try to dilute that, you'll dilute the provincial game. We've seen, from economic and sporting points of view, all the benefits that's brought to the game in Ireland. But, in terms of opportunities to play, they are quite limited."
"The reality is that if you're starting out-half for your province, you've a fair chance of playing for your national team. If you're starting out-half for you club in France or England, you could still be a long, long way off playing for your national team. "