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Fit-again Byrne an inspiration for us all: Ruddock

By Cian Tracey

From the outside looking in, Ed Byrne has almost become the forgotten man at Leinster - 28 months out injured will do that to a player.

But behind the scenes, the 23-year-old's relentless never-say-die attitude in overcoming two serious knee injuries has inspired others who have had the misfortune of being forced to join him in the rehab room.

On Monday, Johnny Sexton spoke about how he felt that he was lucky in terms of the injuries that he has suffered and it was interesting to hear him say: "There's guys around me in Leinster who are injured and haven't played for two years, it's been one injury after another and that gives me perspective."

That was of course a clear nod to what Byrne has been through but last Saturday in Rodney Parade marked a huge moment in the loosehead's career as he played his first competitive senior game since October 31, 2014.

It has been a long road but it is one that is finally looking like paying off. It is also one that has given other Leinster players a new perspective.

Sexton's remark about feeling lucky is no surprise compared to Byrne's luckless run and Rhys Ruddock echoed those sentiments as he himself also returned from a spell out with a torn quad in the win over the Dragons.

"When Ed came on and had such an impact on the game, it was what made me most happy," Ruddock enthused. "We scored from a driving lineout and I was next to him and just the work he did that no one would have seen.

"His determination in that and in the scrum for the pushover try, those little things really show you what he is about. I can only imagine how excited he was. He has had to deal with such a lot mentally, probably wondering is he ever going to be right. I know that day for him was very special. I know the whole team was absolutely delighted to see him go so well.

"The only thing was, he didn't pass me the ball when we were on the edge. I don't really blame him. I think it was his first carry in two and a half years. It was fair enough!

"He made such an impact. Credit to him in how he has handled himself. He has done really well.

"We had to make sure we put in the effort to make sure he remembered the game for the right reasons. We did that. The effort was there which meant Ed could enjoy coming on and making a difference. We had already seen the quality that he had and what he was capable of.

"He never wavered and stayed as positive as he could. Any player, no matter the talent, if they've got that determination and drive, they are going to be an asset worth holding onto."

Like Byrne, Ruddock is now hoping for a prolonged injury-free run as the season nears its climax.

He added: "I am confident that the body feels a lot better. I feel those little innocuous ones are behind me.

"It is an enormous challenge to even get yourself in the squad at the moment. It definitely spurs you on."

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