The battle continued with the British & Irish Lions in South Africa in 2009, when Byrne won the vote to start in the 1st Test before a hand injury ended his tour and allowed Kearney to carry on. Byrne then helped the Ospreys beat Leinster at RDS to win the Magners League Grand Final in 2010.
It is difficult to say who will start as favourites in the second Heineken Cup semi-final of the weekend at Stade Chaban-Delmas when Byrne's new club meet the reigning European champions on Sunday.
The Amlin Opta Index at least gives an insight into the strengths of weaknesses of the two players (see link attached). By studying their form this season they have found:
Read the Amlin Opta Index Head to Head here
BYRNE V KEARNEY - THE FACTS
- Kearney has made more metres (648) with the ball in hand than any other player in the Heineken Cup this season.
- Byrne is ranked second (576).
- Kearney's metres have come from 81 carries to Byrne's 72. They have both made exactly eight metres per carry this season.
- They have scored 10 tries between them from full back - Kearney 6, Byrne 4 - including three in the quarter-finals.
- Kearney's extra attacking points on the Index come because he has made more than twice as many offloads (14 v 6) and beaten twice as many defenders (16 v 8) as Byrne.
- Byrne's kicking points are well ahead of Kearney (184 v 78), but Kearney has a much higher success rate in tackling. Byrne has made just eight tackles, missing four, giving him a tackle success rate of 67%. Kearney has also missed four but completed 21 (84%).
Whoever wins the running battle in Bordeaux might just tip the scales in favour of his side - and even put themselves in line for another tilt with the British & Irish Lions in the summer of 2013 in Australia.