Leinster will face a nervous wait over the next couple of days as they have a number of injury concerns heading into what Stuart Lancaster describes as the “premier” game of this weekend’s European action when they host Toulouse at the RDS.
The reigning champions are currently second in Pool 1, two points behind Toulouse. The French side have not lost a game since that win over Leinster at the Stade Ernest-Wallon in October.
Unfortunately for the eastern province, Johnny Sexton and Devin Toner are both doubts for Saturday’s clash but they are buoyed by the news that Robbie Henshaw could make an earlier than anticipated return from injury.
All three players have been described as “50-50” by Lancaster and should Sexton miss out on the potential season-defining fixture, Byrne will get the nod and the senior coach has no doubt in the player’s capability to successfully navigate his side through such an important game.
“There’s no doubt in our minds about Ross’ capability to play at this level and run the show,” Lancaster told the media on Monday.
“I actually think he’s been probably the most improved player that we’ve had over the course of the last 12 months and totally justified his call-up to Ireland.”
Sexton’s potential absence on Saturday would no doubt be a boost for Toulouse and it could lead to Byrne being targetted but Lancaster is highly confident that the 23-year-old would be able to handle anything thrown at him.
“He played in Europe last year. It wasn’t like he didn’t play in any of the European games. He played the European games, he started against Munster in the PRO14 semi-final, Johnny didn’t play at all in that game. He was outstanding when he played against Dragons not so long ago.
“He trains consistently well. He’s benefitted from being sat underneath Johnny for two or three years. I can’t give him enough credit to how highly I personally regard him. He’s a leader, he runs the show. His kicking game is excellent, he’s ready 100%.”