Ross Byrne set to be named as one of four outhalves in Ireland Six Nations squad

Johnny Sexton likely to be fit for Six Nations opener despite inclusion of Byrne, Carbery and Crowley

Although Johnny Sexton is expected to be fit for Ireland’s opening game of the 2023 Six Nations against Wales in the Principality Stadium on February 4th, the anticipated inclusion of Ross Byrne as one of four outhalves in the squad is a measure of his increased standing among the Irish coaching ticket.

Sexton has only played once since being withdrawn less than an hour before kick-off in Ireland’s final Autumn Series game against Australia with a calf injury. On his comeback appearance against Connacht on New Year’s Day, the Irish captain suffered an injury to his cheekbone. However, all the indications are that Sexton, like Tadhg Furlong, should be fit for the Welsh game.

The inclusion of Byrne, as one of four outhalves along with Sexton, Joey Carbery and Jack Crowley, is fair reward for his nerveless return to the Test arena in November’s victory over Australia.

Byrne had been out of favour since winning the last of his previous 13 caps when added as a late addition to the replacements and playing just the last minute of the 2021 Six Nations finale against England.


But on foot of injuries to first Ciarán Frawley and then Joey Carbery, Byrne was again called up to the squad as emergency cover at the beginning of the Australian week as back-up to Sexton and Crowley, who was subsequently promoted to the starting line-up for his first test start. Byrne was added to the bench.

Byrne was introduced for the last nine minutes, just after the Wallabies had drawn level. When Ireland were awarded a scrum penalty he immediately grabbed the ball and after a quick exchange of smiles and nods with the then captain James Ryan, he duly nailed the kick, which was five metres from the right touchline and 45 metres from the posts.

Playing the best rugby of his career in the last year and a half or so, Byrne has started ten and finished another four of all but one of Leinster’s 15 wins in 15 games this season, including all three in the Champions Cup.

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times