Matt Williams wants Byrne to take out his frustrations born from often playing second fiddle when Leinster take on La Rochelle.
Ross Byrne will start for Leinster in the Heineken Champions Cup semi-final against Ronan O’Gara’s La Rochelle in the absence of captain Johnny Sexton.
The 26-year-old played the majority of Leinster’s quarter-final win against Exeter Chiefs after Sexton withdrew due to injury early on and started for the blues in their Pro14 final win against Munster in March.
Former Leinster coach Williams was speaking on Virgin Media ahead of the game and urged Byrne to tap into the same anger the Australian feels he showed in his performance against Exeter.
Some Ross Byrne appreciation. 🔟@MattRCNM & @ianmck7 heap praise on the fly-half who will make his 100th appearance for @leinsterrugby tomorrow.#SRvLEI | #HeinekenChampionsCup pic.twitter.com/Ygo2X05tfa
— Virgin Media Sport (@VMSportIE) May 1, 2021
“Sexton’s an icon, [Byrne] comes on and replaces him and he was superb. He wasn’t just good, he was superb [against Exeter],” Williams began.
“I saw something in Ross. He’s a gentleman and a lovely young man, I want to give him a shake sometimes because I want him to get angry, like Sexton used to be when he was starting.
“He was angry when he came on the field. He was sick and tired to his bones of being told about his brother [Harry Byrne], Sexton, and everything else. He took that game by the scruff of the neck and really shook it around…
“We have not seen the best of Ross Byrne, don’t write him off yet. This is a guy who is not going to be at his best until his late-20s or early 30s. That is just the way the man is made in my opinion.”
‘In many ways, the players are more in-sync with Ross.’
The Virgin Media pundit is far from the only man who has confidence in Byrne to guide Leinster to a sixth Champions Cup final, as Leinster head coach Leo Cullen sang his fly-half’s praises in a press conference on Friday.
While Cullen acknowledged that Sexton is their first-choice number 10, the Leinster head coach also admitted that the players may be more in tune with Byrne than their captain.
“Ross has played lot more minutes in the last three or four seasons than Johnny because Johnny had more international minutes,” Cullen commented.
‘It’s an unbelievably exciting challenge.’ 👊
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) May 1, 2021
“We’re beneficiaries of one of those guys coming back [from Ireland camp]. When Ross doesn’t get picked, he’s with us and it’s great. In many ways, the players are more in sync with Ross because he has played more games.
“Obviously, Johnny over a long period of time [is more attuned]. It depends how long you want to look back but we’re lucky to have the two of them here.”