RUGBY: ADAM BYRNE INTERVIEW
Lisbon the next stop on route to Olympic qualification for Byrne
By Daire Walsh
WITH the 2016 Olympic Games just over a year away, Ireland’s quest to qualify for the rugby sevens competition in Rio De Janeiro continues to gather pace.
The women’s side have been making steady progress as they aim to secure a place in the Brazilian capital, and courtesy of their recent Rugby Europe Division C and Division B successes, their male counterparts are also in contention for the 31st Summer Olympics.
Kill native Adam Byrne is a key member of the men’s squad (who play under the name of the Ireland Wolfhounds), and following their recent triumphs in the lower-tier competitions, he is now looking forward to the European Repechage, which takes place in Lisbon this coming weekend.
“I suppose we never really expected it [sevens] to take off. I know they had a team about seven years ago, but it’s relatively new. We’ve progressed from Division C, and then we won Division B there a few weeks ago [June 21],” Byrne remarked.
“I think everybody is pretty excited going into Portugal and I think there’ll be some serious, top teams, who’ve been playing it for years and a couple of teams that have been involved in the World Circuit. The feeling is more so excitement and just looking forward to it. Hopefully we’ll give that a good go.”
Byrne’s form has been impressive so far, and although many of their victories to date have been overwhelmingly one-sided, the confidence levels of the Irish team will be high heading into the European and World Repechage competitions.
However, while Byrne normally operates on the wing in the colours of Leinster and UCD, he has found himself fulfilling a number of roles in sevens, which has helped to make playing at this level completely different to what he had initially anticipated.
“Sevens is totally different to what I expected. It’s the speed of the game, the way you play it and the principles are a lot different. Especially in defence and stuff. Again, all the basics are the same. Passing, rucking.”
“I really am enjoying it, because I play wing normally in 15, so for me to play first receiver, scrum-half, sometimes I’m in the front row and lifting in the line-outs. It’s pretty enjoyable.”
“You get a small sense now of what the front row must be going through in the scrums. I’m enjoying it, especially in tournaments and camps. I must say, I was a bit lost. It was totally different to anything I’d kind of done before, but I’d like to say I’m kind of used to it now.”
The ultimate priority for the Wolfhounds is of course to qualify for next year’s Olympics, but with another brace of qualification routes ahead of them, Byrne is simply taking each game as it comes for the time being.
“I still haven’t really thought about it, the Olympics, myself. I’m kind of taking it tournament by tournament. It’s funny to see other teams after Croatia in the Division B kind of saying, ‘good luck in your route and trying to get to Rio.’ I think, as a team in general, we’ve a good mind-set. We’re taking it not even tournament by tournament, but game by game. We’re planning for each game, and we just want to perform.”
“I think any time we’ve performed to near enough our potential, we’ve come away with the right result. I think we’re in a good place, but I know the Olympics is a long way off. We have to finish top-three in the European Olympic Repechage, and then we have to go to the World one at some stage next year.”
In addition to his exploits at international level, the coming months will also be an important period in the development of Byrne’s provincial career. The former Naas club man has just one appearance at senior level with Leinster, but with several players from the Blue Army set to be involved at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, he is aware that there may be opportunities for the younger players in the early stages of next season.
“I think from as long as I’ve been in Leinster, any kind of young player, and any player that wears the jersey, is expected to serve it well. Especially with this being a World Cup year, young players are going to have to step up and blend. It’s a really good opportunity, and yet again the main feeling is excitement.”
“There’s going to be a good buzz pre-season. It’s going to be tough, fitness and rugby wise, but everyone is really looking forward to it now. Everyone just wants to stake the claim now and play well in the jersey and then just go from there. That’s the main goal for pre-season,” Byrne added.