Thursday 21 September 2017

Beirne aims for Scarlets supremacy

Tadhg Beirne will be facing his former team when he lines out for Scarlets against Leinster. Photo: Sportsfile
Tadhg Beirne will be facing his former team when he lines out for Scarlets against Leinster. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

The Scarlets are pretty confident of selling out their allocation for next week's Guinness PRO12 semi-final at the RDS, but it seems likely the away section will be filled with Kildare accents.

They'll be there to support Tadhg Beirne, a native of Eadestown, who is taking the alternative route to the top of the professional game having joined the west-Walians last summer.

He made just four appearances for his home province before deciding to head abroad to get game-time and the move has gone swimmingly at Parc y Scarlets.

Beirne has established himself as a starter for the Llanelli-based club, making 22 appearances over the course of the season as he covers second-row and back-row and although he's struggling with a rib injury he would be expected to make the starting XV for the biggest game of their season against his old team.

Impact

"He's had a massive impact," Scarlets coach Wayne Pivac said. "If you said value for money he'd be right up there at the top of the list. He came over for an opportunity and he's taken it with both hands and it's one of the success stories of our side this year.

"Certainly all the tickets the team get, no doubt will be taken up by his family and friends. Whenever we come to Ireland it seems to be the case, he has a massive following!

"Look, it's going to be a great experience for him. When any player goes and plays against your old team you like to play one of your best games but having said that he picked up an injury yesterday so we'll just have to see how he goes over the next few days."

For a last-minute addition, it's worked out well.

"His agent was looking and we were in the market for a second-row," Pivac recalled. "It was pretty much the last few days, for us, of wrapping our squad up. We had a look at the footage and did our homework from there.

"I spoke to his coach at Lansdowne, Mike Ruddock, the former Welsh coach, and he spoke very highly of him.

"He was the type of player we were looking for to cover the second-row and No 6. He does that. The skill-set for those positions to play the type of game we want to play and he ticked the boxes. He may not be the perfect fit for other teams but for us, the way we play the game, he fits in really well."

Within the Scarlets dressing-room his team-mates have been impressed by Beirne's work.

"He has really grown as the season has gone on," captain Ken Owens said. "Wayne has given him an opportunity after bringing him over from Leinster.

"He had a bit of a slow start coming into a new environment, but just before Christmas when he was given his first opportunity he has really kicked on and he is probably a candidate for one of our players of the season. He has been absolutely outstanding, both in Europe and in the league."

He's in the enemy ranks this week, but for Leinster coach Leo Cullen there is nothing but goodwill for the returning former Clongowes student.

"It's great for Tadhg. I think he needed to go and play consistently somewhere and I think he's got the opportunity there at Scarlets," the three-time Heineken Cup-winning captain said.

"He was unlucky with injuries when he was coming through the Academy and it stunted his development. He was out for long periods and just didn't get into that flow of games, ever.

"But I'm really, really pleased. He's a great competitor, Tadhg, he goes hard, he has a great engine. Even in his physical development, in his last six to nine months with Leinster he made huge physical strides so yeah, I'm delighted to see him do well."

Given the additional emphasis on Irish-qualified players, Beirne's performances will undoubtedly have piqued interest back home where quality second-rows are in short supply.

Yet Pivac is unsure as of yet whether his upward trajectory will take him into the Test arena.

"He's certainly done well," he said.

"Is he big enough for a second-row at international level? That may be a question mark but certainly at the level he's operating at now he's doing a very, very good job and the fact he can play in more than one position, I think he's an asset for any team."

Leinster will be hoping this asset called Beirne won't be able to assert his supremacy in a week's time.

Irish Independent

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