The Cardiff Blues front row must have thought they were seeing double during the closing stages of Friday’s GUINNESS PRO12 clash with Leinster at the RDS, as twin brothers Bryan and Ed Byrne featured for the hosts.
It was a famous night for the Byrne family from Carlow as 21-year-old prop Ed made his senior debut for Leinster, coming off the bench in the 68th minute of their 37-23 win over Cardiff.
He was joined on the pitch in the 78th minute by his twin and fellow Leinster Academy member Bryan, who was making his third PRO12 appearance of the season as replacement hooker.
Bryan may have only been on the pitch for upwards of three minutes but he managed to provide the assist for Luke McGrath’s bonus point try in injury-time. The talented hooker has already played for Emerging Ireland, helping them win the IRB Nations Cup in June.
The Byrnes, who turned 21 earlier this month, are only the second set of twins to have been on the pitch at the same time in a PRO12 game.
The Pavans from Aironi – Riccardo and Gilberto – made history by appearing together on six occasions during the 2011/12 season.
In all, four sets of twins have played for PRO12 teams – Neil and Roddy Boobyer with Llanelli and Caerphilly, the Pavans from Italy, Edinburgh’s Alex and Ben Toolis and now the Byrnes from Leinster.
It was sign of Leinster’s confidence in their young players that they ended the Cardiff game with three 21-year-olds in the front row, with the Byrnes combining with Wexford-born tighthead Tadhg Furlong.
The trio are well used to playing with each other having won the British & Irish Cup with Leinster ‘A’ last season, and they gained valuable experience in recent seasons with the Ireland Under-20s.
Bryan and Tadhg were involved in the Clontarf squad that won the Ulster Bank League title last season, and of course the twins first came to prominence at Schools level where they were Leinster Schools Junior and Senior Cup champions with Clongowes Wood College.
It is no surprise that Bryan (16st 3lb and 5ft 10in) and Ed, who is slightly heavier and taller at 16st 9lb and 5ft 11in, have progressed at a rapid rate given their all-round rugby skills, scrummaging ability and appetite for hard work.
Two years ago, then Leinster Academy Manager Colin McEntee described the twins as ‘two really dynamic, well-rounded players’. “They have real potential. The way they play the game, their traits, their skills fit the Leinster system. They are driven in their attitude to the game and they are also good academically,” he said.
The pair will hope to deliver on that potential in the months and years ahead, and are certainly two young players to look out for as their careers progress.
– With thanks to Stuart Farmer, GUINNESS PRO12 statistician