Sunday 15 September 2019

Beirne: 'This is the main reason I came back to Ireland'

Munster lock is feeling settled in new surroundings and he hopes he can hit high notes on first international start

Tadhg Beirne goes through his paces during an Ireland training session at Toyota Park in Chicago yesterday. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Tadhg Beirne goes through his paces during an Ireland training session at Toyota Park in Chicago yesterday. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Cian Tracey in Chicago

This is exactly why Tadhg Beirne made the decision to return home to Ireland.

Leaving the Scarlets, where he had become such an integral part of the Welsh side's success, as well as being a huge fan favourite, was not easy. But when Joe Schmidt comes calling, you don't say no.

Getting a taste for international rugby when he made his debut in Australia during the summer tour erased any lingering doubts and being told that he was going to make his first start against Italy tomorrow hammered home that point.

"For sure, this is probably the main reason I came back to Ireland," Beirne admits.

Opportunity

"To be given the opportunity in the first game since I have come back is huge for me. All I can say is that I am really looking forward to it."

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Click to view full size graphic

Ireland's second-row options have never been as strong, yet Beirne offers something different.

There are few players in the world who are more effective at the breakdown and he is now adding even more strings to his bow.

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The Kildare native has placed a big emphasis on carrying the ball more often, while he is trying to be smarter in terms of hitting rucks with a view to conserving energy.

With the staggering amount of minutes that he racked up last season, it was no surprise that Beirne was feeling fatigued towards the tail end but he wouldn't have it any other way.

"Look, I'm one of those players who wants to be out there all the time, for sure," the 26-year-old maintains.

"I love to play and that's why I'm in the sport, even though when I know I should be rested, and then you've to watch the games and I'm sitting there thinking to myself, 'Jeez, I'd rather be out there.'

"Yeah, for sure it's something I've enjoyed doing and hopefully I'll have the pleasure of continuing to play a lot of games, because it's what I love to do."

Beirne's Munster career got off to a sluggish start as he struggled with the changing of systems but his performances in Champions Cup games against Exeter and Gloucester left little doubt that he is nearing a return to his best form.

"I haven't had as many wins as I would have liked thus far but I think that will come," he says.

"I think we are starting to find our feet there. I am finding my feet there a lot better. My performances at the start weren't where I would have liked them to be. They are slowly improving and thankfully I did enough to get into camp.

"It was just more about the system and everything like that. I was finding it kind of difficult to get into games the way I probably used to.

"It was just taking more time and I was probably getting frustrated with myself about not contributing what I usually would have contributed to.

"But look, I feel like my performances have been improving more and more.

"I'm getting to know the players around me and what they are good at and everything like that. The better you know your team-mates, the better you play, for sure.

"I think my performances have definitely been going up and hopefully they keep going that way.

"I was commuting from Kildare and all that kind of stuff, so in terms of settling in it probably took me a little bit longer than I would have liked.

"I kind of found my feet a bit better the more time I was spending up there, the more time with the boys. And it just happened more than anything, the more game time I got.

"I probably put in better performances in those two (Champions Cup) games than I had in the PRO14.

"For me they were definitely big games, when you go up to that level, everyone in the club gets a lift and everyone is up for those games."

Munster head coach Johann van Graan has given Beirne more of a licence to do what he does best, particularly at the breakdown.

But there is a stark realisation that international rugby is a massive step up and that same freedom is not always going to be there.

"I suppose you don't want to just go and do anything that you want. You have got to stay within the system because if I step out of it, the whole system can fall to pieces," Beirne adds.

"But I do have a bit of a licence to go after rucks a little bit more and that is just something that is given to me.

"But for me it is all about picking my opportunities, and knowing when it is a good decision to come out of that system.

"I still have to be smart within that system.

"Test level is completely different particularly in terms of how quick the game is and I don't think I will have that kind of licence, mainly because you can't come out of the system, because if you do the opposition will just pick you off.

"But if the opportunity comes up in front of me, and I feel I can go and poach, I will.

"It is all about being smart and knowing when to go for it."

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