Ireland U20 and Leinster flyhalf Sam Prendergast has long been touted as the next great Irish flyhalf.
Truly dominating all comers in the recent U20 Six Nations in which Ireland won a Grand Slam. Prendergast continued his fine run of form in his senior Leinster debut against the Emirates Lions in the United Rugby Championship.
Whilst Jonathan Sexton will rightly lead world number one Ireland at this year’s Rugby World Cup, the battle to replace him will be a major talking point at the tournament’s conclusion.
Currently leading the charge are the duo of 28-year-old Ross Byrne and 23-year-old Jack Crowley.
Leinster’s Byrne has enjoyed a meteoric comeback over the past season, having been all but discarded in the wake of Ireland’s horrendous crash at the tail end of the Joe Schmidt era.
Such was his fall from grace that his younger brother Harry and other options, such as Ulster’s Billy Byrne ahead of him, whilst Joey Carbery was the assumed number two behind Sexton.
Carbery has since had a major fall of his own, but given his quality and mental fortitude will likely come back swinging either in the World Cup warm-ups or next season.
Renowned for his cool yet competitive demeanour, Byrne is widely regarded as the best kicker in Irish Rugby and is full of confidence at the moment.
Perhaps the most interesting prospect, however, is Munster star Jack Crowley who not only has all of the physical tools but has shown the cerebral aptitude to be top-class ten. Having landed a sublime last-minute drop goal to sink Leinster in the URC semi-finals, Crowley reaffirmed why Andy Farrell has so much confidence in him.
Thus, the stage is set for Prendergast to enter the equation as a real threat to the incumbents. For perhaps the first time in the professional era outside of a brief spell when Ronan O’Gara and Sexton overlapped, Irish Rugby now have several genuine contenders for the number ten shirt.