/‘His athleticism is ridiculous but he can also pack a scrum’ – Beirne pushes for Ireland start

‘His athleticism is ridiculous but he can also pack a scrum’ – Beirne pushes for Ireland start

THERE HAS BEEN a definite sense of Tadhg Beirne shifting up a few gears in recent months as the Munster man has grabbed games by the scruff of the neck and stamped his presence all over them.

Last weekend against Leinster, the second row did everything in his power to drag Munster over the line but the reigning Pro14 champions had enough quality to score a winning try in the 69th minute. 

A first-half try, two turnovers on the Munster tryline, impactful tackling, and aggressive carrying – Beirne was seemingly everywhere. It was a bad night for the southern province’s lineout, which he calls, but that was a rarity and not solely on his shoulders.

The 29-year-old Kildare man has 17 Ireland caps but has yet to enjoy consistent first-choice status. There have been nine starts, with two in the Six Nations last year, as Beirne has attempted to show he has the qualities to be a frontline player at Test level. 

Beirne has played at blindside flanker for Ireland on several occasions and head coach Andy Farrell has indicated he still views him as an option there, but lock is his usual position with Munster.

Questions have been raised over whether 113kg Beirne has the necessary size and grunt to be a Test-level lock for Ireland but he is doing his best to disprove that notion. Munster forwards coach Graham Rowntree certainly doesn’t see any such shortcoming.

“I may be a bit biased in my point of view but I’ve worked with a lot of Test players and he’d certainly be up there,” says Rowntree. “His athleticism is ridiculous but he can also pack a scrum.

“If you think about the amount of scrums and the work that’s required from a second row in a game like last weekend, in terms of maul, scrum, breakdown, he’s doing that and he’s having a massive amount of influence on the game elsewhere as well, so credit to him.”

Beirne remains a huge menace at the breakdown.

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

With Iain Henderson having been sidelined since Ireland’s autumn campaign due to a knee injury, there is a widespread expectation that Beirne will partner James Ryan in the second row for next weekend’s Six Nations opener against Wales in Cardiff.

Be part
of the team

Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership.

Become a Member

Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership.

It’s unclear whether Farrell is willing to send Henderson straight back into action in such a big Test game, while he has other lock options in Connacht pair Ultan Dillane and Quinn Roux, but Beirne is in the best form.

“He’s certainly in the analysis room a lot, looking at stuff,” says Rowntree of the diligence he has seen in Beirne’s preparation.

“He was a lineout caller at the weekend and he’s not just a lock, he can play anywhere in that back five. The way he plays the game, the input he has in a game… I was looking at his stats again from the weekend, he’s making nearly 30 tackles in the game, never mind his lineout game, his rucks, and the pressure he’s putting on the ball at the defensive breakdown. He’s very athletic, nice to work with.

“He’s a quiet character, goes about his business but you always have that assurance with him that he knows exactly what he’s doing and what he wants the pack to be doing at lineout time in particular.

“He and Billy Holland are very similar in that regard, very organised, get on with stuff but just have a real air of calmness around the group.”

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella, and Gavan Casey chat Six Nations and its future, the contractual bottleneck and French interest in Irish stars, Leone Nakarawa’s arrival in Belfast, and the poor standard of officiating in rugby: