Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Byrne keen to make his mark

Lee Byrne has been in danger of becoming Wales' forgotten full-back but will get his chance in Monday's World Cup clash against Namibia at Stadium Taranaki.

Former Ospreys star Byrne started in the warm-up against Argentina before being substituted and then looked on as James Hook wore Wales' number 15 shirt in the Pool D appointments with South Africa and Samoa. When Hook went off nursing a shoulder injury at half-time against Samoa and Leigh Halfpenny deputised meaning Byrne has had to wait patiently for his chance.

But that opportunity finally arrives on Monday for the 31-year-old, who will join French heavyweights Clermont Auvergne after the World Cup, and he said: "It is nice to be back playing again. It's all about game-time. The more time I get on the pitch, the better I play. With 'Hooky' being out it's a big opportunity for me, and I have got to make the most of the chance."

He added: "I have enjoyed being part of the squad, but there is only so much training you can do. You want to be involved in the match 22, so it's great to have been picked."

Byrne, despite having won 44 caps, is among nine players in the starting line-up on Monday who will make their World Cup debuts.

"I was just so happy to have made the squad for the tournament, but now I have been given the chance I don't want to disappoint against Namibia," he added.

"Of course it's a massive opportunity for me. Maybe there is a position to grab for the next few weeks. I have been waiting for this.

"I want to challenge for a place in the team for the rest of the tournament. I want to put a marker down for the Fiji game."

In making 11 changes to face Namibia, Wales coach Warren Gatland has also summoned a raft of experience. Four of those players called up - Byrne, Stephen Jones, Gethin Jenkins and Ryan Jones - have 274 caps between them.

"The boys who played (against South Africa and Samoa) have laid down a marker, and we can't disappoint them with a sub-standard performance," Byrne said. "For some people, it could be their last game of the World Cup if they don't deliver, so we all know what is at stake."


From Belfast Telegraph