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Champions Cup final: How Jamie Osborne has grown into a big player for Leinster

The young centre from Kildare has been impressive when stepping in for the injured Garry Ringrose

Jamie Osborne was born nearly two months after Leinster first beat Toulouse, in 2001. In the new era of European rugby, that was the third meeting between the sides, Leinster having lost twice to the formidable French in the 1997 Champions Cup. They were determined not to let a long losing streak develop.

Now 22 years old, Osborne is a growing force. And Leinster are once more going into a game against a French side with passions running high and, what is more, determined not to suffer a third defeat in a row in a European final. After two losses to La Rochelle, it is Toulouse again, except this time inside centre Osborne will have skin in the game.

It has been a mark of Leinster’s depth that when the Irish first-choice 13 Garry Ringrose was injured, Osborne stepped up to 12 and Robbie Henshaw shifted out. When Osborne took it all in his stride.. Now, a healthy run into the summer and hopes for a place on the Irish tour to South Africa would not be seen as overreach.

His elevation should not come as a surprise, as Osborne has been in Andy Farrell’s eye line since last year’s Six Nations championship. The injured Henshaw and Joey Carbery were left out of Ireland’s 37-man squad while there was a place for the uncapped Leinster back.


At Irish Under-20 level, he was a fullback but Osborne has a catholic appetite for the back positions and has been more than a snug fit in the centre alongside Henshaw for the last raft of knock-out Leinster matches. He started against Leicester in the round of 16, again against La Rochelle in the quarter-final and in the semi-final against Northampton.

Like Henshaw, Osborne, at 6ft 4in, has physique to play the high-collision position without each match becoming an extreme event, while his left boot, like that of James Lowe, is an extra asset. But he is about far more than size and power.

After a win against Benetton in February when Osborne had just returned from long-term injury and flipped the game with a man-of-the-match performance, coach Leo Cullen was in little doubt where his prospect was headed.

“He looks comfortable at 12,” said Cullen. “It’s trying to play to his strength. Yes, [he has] that big left boot but he’s skilful as well. The role of the 12, depending on what personnel are involved, who’s winning the gainline so to speak, you need to have a collision winner somewhere in your backline. He has very good skills, very good decision-making close to the line, and that kicking game.”

Decision-making, poise, reading of the game and temperament, along with the other ingredients that make up rugby IQ, often determine how far players can go. Talent is never enough.

In an interview with RTÉ last year, Johne Murphy, the former Munster and Leicester winger, who briefly coached Osborne at Naas RFC, spoke of qualities other than his versatility and physique.

“Automatically when he came down training, he picked up things instantly,” said Murphy. “He’s one of those players where you don’t think he’s travelling that fast but he just glides across the ground, covers so much ground.

“Defensively his reads are excellent and he has a left foot which opens up the other side of the pitch. He just gets it. He’s big, strong, he’s a real rugby student. He would have spent a lot of time on our ‘Hudl’ platform, in terms of watching [clips], trying to get up to scratch on calls and plays.

“There’s a thing that shows how much time someone has viewed stuff on Hudl. His was always the highest by a long, long way.”

Osborne made his Leinster debut in 2021 at age 19 against Scarlets. His lineage goes through the club system in Naas, not the schools, while one of his four younger brothers, Andrew, is also a talent and currently in the Leinster academy.

Before Stuart Lancaster moved to France from Leinster at the end of last season, he too was talking up Osborne as an international prospect, although the first Irish cap has remained elusive, with Ringrose, Bundee Aki and Henshaw being three good reasons.

“He can carry hard with the traffic into the 12 channel but he’s also got the football ability to play 13. He’s a good distributor,” said Lancaster. “He’s got good pace. He’s quite an introverted lad, quite a quiet lad, but he’s definitely grown in confidence and belief and his personality is coming out now. He’s played for us in big games now and in terms of his evolution ... definitely he’s international quality.”

Osborne’s performances in the knock-out stages have shown that Lancaster’s eye was true. This weekend he may face 21-year-old Paul Costes, son of former French international Arnaud, and one of the rising stars in Toulouse, who also plays in the centre and, like Osborne, has never won a Champions Cup.

Osborne couldn’t be part of the narrative when Leinster first beat Toulouse. But timing is everything. Now he can help draw Leinster level with the French side’s five European crowns and insert himself into a different thread of Leinster history.