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'Want to represent Ireland': Why former Force star left Aussie rugby behind

By Finn Morton
Force player Byron Ralston (C) is congratulated by teammate Richard Kahui (R) after scoring a try against the Rebels during the Super Rugby match between the Melbourne Rebels and the Western Force (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

Former Junior Wallabies squad member Byron Ralston will always be remembered as the player who scored the Western Force’s first try back in Super Rugby.


Ralston announced himself to the rugby world with the historic score at the Sydney Cricket Ground a few years ago, and went on to impress as a right winger throughout his rookie campaign.

After a breakout season at Super Rugby level in blue, black and gold, the utility back had emerged as a player to watch within Australian rugby.

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But fast forward a few years, and he isn’t playing Super Rugby anymore – he’s not even living in the southern hemisphere.

Instead, the 22-year-old is now playing alongside the likes of Mack Hansen and Bundee Aki at Connacht in the United Rugby Championship.

After growing up in Australia and spending four seasons at the Force, Ralston decided that moving to Ireland was the best thing for his development.

But that’s not to say that’s the only driving factor, either.

Speaking with RugbyPass about his decision to leave Australia, Ralston expressed his desire to “play for Ireland.”


“I think for any professional rugby player who has the potential opportunity to represent their country at international level, it’s definitely a driving factor,” Ralston said.

“I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t want to represent Ireland at the international stage.

“I went to the Ireland versus Wallabies Test match at the Aviva in the Autumn Nations (Series), and even through speaking to Mack… you can just see the passion and how fruitful the rugby is over here through the fans.

“So to say I didn’t think about that in my decision making, I’d be lying to you. But certainly I do know there’s a lot of hard work in between that has to be done before that’s attainable.

“To play for Ireland, to put it in pretty plain words, it’d be sick.”

Ralston grew up with a childhood dream that a lot of people in Australia share: he wanted to play for the Wallabies.

After playing club rugby in Brisbane as a junior, the Darwin-born talent went on to captain Gregory Terrace in the prestigious GPS high school competition.

Then, after playing for Brothers in Queensland Premier Rugby, Ralston got his chance with the Force.

Without a doubt, that “childhood dream” of donning Wallaby gold played a part in his journey.

But he had to let it go, at least for now.


“While I was at the Force, I was never really getting too far ahead of myself in that aspect, I was just trying to play consistent, well enough rugby for the Force,” he added.

“In terms of when I left, I certainly knew that was the point where I was going to release that childhood dream, that I wasn’t going to be playing for the Wallabies.

“Although that was hard to come (by), the aspects of playing over here in Ireland, and playing in Europe, playing… that Champions League style of rugby, just the allure of that was a lot more enticing for me.

“Being over in a different settling lifestyle wise and being able to travel, and being able to experience different cultures, it just felt like it was the right fit for me at the time.

“Particularly for my own development as a person and as a rugby player, I felt like I could get more out of myself moving away from the comfort of Australia and Australian rugby.”


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