Galwegians and Connacht Academy lock Andrew Browne only took up rugby aged 16, but is already making rapid strides up through the ranks.
Browne, who stands at 6ft 5in and only turned 19 late last month, starred for Ireland’s Under-20s in their dramatic 17-15 win over Wales last week.
The Galway-born youngster is delighted to be a member of the U-20 squad which, he says, is “great craic.” “There’s a great atmosphere, we’ve gelled together really quickly,” added Browne who is rooming with his second row partner Conor McInerney.
Naming All Black Richie McCaw as the player he most admires – “his work rate is just huge” – Browne also has great admiration for Munster and Ireland lock Paul O’Connell.
His main aim, over the next few seasons, is to gain a foothold in the Connacht senior set-up. He is currently a member of the province’s talent-laden Academy and he views his selection for the game against Wales and tonight’s clash with France as “a big step-up.”
“It’s great to be working with the squad and Eric Elwood, you’d appreciate it a lot. The coaching is very good. I’ve learnt a lot from Eric both with Connacht and with the Irish squad.
“I’m really looking forward to taking on the French at Dubarry Park. I’ve played there many times and it’s a lovely venue. There’s a great local involvement there. The pitch is looking very well at the moment and we’re hoping for a good crowd. My dad and some of my cousins will be there.”
Browne counts his Connacht and Ireland U-20 team-mate Aidan Wynne as the best player he has played with, while his trickiest opponent has been Cardiff lock Bradley Davies, who skippered the Wales Under-19s to a Grand Slam last year.
Asked who might win the senior Six Nations, he admitted: “I think Ireland have a great chance. They have good forwards and classy backs.”
Browne’s proudest moments so far have been winning his first cap for Ireland and also being honoured to lead out the Connacht Under-20 side against Ulster this season. His most uttered words on the pitch? “C’mon lads, let’s do it.”