Highlights on Off The Ball

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Highlights on Off The Ball


Ross Byrne has the rubber stamp approval of Ronan O'Gara

Ross Byrne is now Ireland's primary backup out-half and Ronan O'Gara thinks he's also Jonathan Sexton's heir when he retires.

La Rochelle head coach and former Ireland out-half Ronan O'Gara joined Joe Molloy on Off The Ball to discuss Ross Byrne.

Ross Byrne jumped the queue from anonymity to Jonathan Sexton's primary backup last November.

And on Sunday against France in the biggest game of Ireland's season outside of the World Cup, Byrne finished the game. Jonathan Sexton reluctantly went off with 30+ minutes to go. Byrne didn't have a starring role. He kicked a conversion and routine penalty.

But he kept the team ticking over in what was a frantic game. Byrne's comfort in Andy Farrell's system has pushed him ahead of the other options for Ireland at 10.

Ronan O'Gara believes that his performance against France carries more weight than it would against Scotland, Wales or Italy. And, ultimately, that's what Farrell will value.

"With Ross Byrne's capability off the tee, it's astounding now that any kick is a gimme," O'Gara began.

"He's put himself probably in a territory where very few players in the world are in that regard. Because off the bench, or in a tight game, it's a wonderful [thing to have]. A guy hitting 99 out of 100 fairways doesn't miss."

Byrne is Ireland's primary backup because he's played effectively in games off the bench recently. But he still hasn't started a game for Andy Farrell against any level of opponent. Joey Carbery finished games for Ireland against the best teams in the world.

The question is, can Byrne be an effective starter when Sexton is unavailable and after he retires? O'Gara believes so.

"Yeah, most definitely [he has rubber-stamped his place as Sexton's replacement]. These games speak loudly. Especially, with all due respect, that's the top tier of Northern hemisphere rugby yesterday. There isn't a bigger examination.

"There's people who could pick holes in it if it's an Italian or Scottish or a Welsh team. But England or France, these are incredibly difficult games.

"And the game still had to be won at 55 minutes. It could have gone either way."

England missed an opportunity to drop Owen Farrell


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Andy Farrell Ireland Joey Carbery Jonathan Sexton Ronan O'Gara Ross Byrne