Sunday 21 April 2019

David Wallace: 'It's impossible for Joe Schmidt to ignore Tadhg Beirne for the last two Six Nations games'

Tadhg Beirne. Photo: Sportsfile
Tadhg Beirne. Photo: Sportsfile

David Wallace

It was a busy weekend of rugby with the Irish game probably being the least entertaining of them all, but it all started off with another impressive away performance from Munster in Swansea.

Every game can't be a 70-point epic, but they way they ground it out against a real tough opponent bodes well for the coming weeks where I expect they'll kick on further when everyone is back in the squad an international rugby is parked for a few months.

The weekend started with Munster on Friday. The France-Scotland and Wales-England games took up most of Saturday, while I was tuned in for Ireland and Italy on Sunday.

Nervous

After that I was on duty for a review show on Sunday night on Virgin with Shane Byrne and Andy Friend, which was hosted by Joe Molloy.

After watching the Ireland game for a second time, it seemed that a lot of the guys getting their chances to impress were nervous. For some of them their first involvement went a bit awry and after that it was hard to recover.

There was also experienced guys struggling too though. Seán O'Brien's first pass was off the mark, Seán Cronin was throwing into the sun for his first lineout and that didn't help, and that shaky start seemed to spread a little bit.

From the start of the competition there has been a lot of injuries and disruption. I think that is causing some issues, while the loss of Bundee Aki early on against Italy was a big disruption with so many other changes happening.

Because of the high error count it meant that Ireland couldn't get into their multi-phase game, the tempo was missing and it turned into a bit of a toil.

At times the game-plan looked very predictable, with one-off runners the go-to option. And when you don't have CJ Stander there to do the majority of the carrying, I think the standard dropped a little bit.

It's hard to replace a guy of his class with his ability to consistently get over the gain line. It shows how much Munster and Ireland depend on him.

Overall, I thought it was a good innings from the Munster lads. Peter O'Mahony as man of the match was great, I thought John Ryan impressed when he came on, Dave Kilcoyne carried well and Keith Earls was very sharp. Hopefully we'll see them get another chance against France.

Watching the Italy game, it was hard not to think back to Munster's outing two days earlier and the impact that Tadhg Beirne made on his return from a knee injury. He's only been a few weeks out but he vented a lot of frustration with that performance. When you think his call-up came at such short notice it made his impact all the more impressive.

I'd love to see him get a bit more game-time tomorrow against his former team, and a big game against Scarlets would put him in good shape to go straight into the Ireland team for the last two Six Nations games.

His form is exceptional, it's impossible to ignore him now. And even if everyone was fit in the Irish second-row, he has got to be in with a huge chance of starting.

In Swansea, Darren Sweetnam and Mike Haley got the first and last tries, and there was a bit of a nasty bounce for the Ospreys try that got them back into the game. Rhys Marshall did the right thing and tried to dive on a loose ball but it squirted free, and other than that I thought Munster defended really well.

Neil Cronin did well too I thought. He really stepped it up from the previous game and he brought great pace to Munster's play when the pack generated quick ball for him to work off.

But Munster need to be looking at keeping ahead of Glasgow. Their bonus-point win over Connacht means there is only one point between the teams, but top spot in the pool and the home advantage that comes with it is a vital commodity when it comes to the final games of the season.

I'd say we'll see one or two of the Ireland lads involved this weekend but this is a very tough game coming up, one of the tougher away games of the season. Scarlets were impressive winners last weekend against Cheetahs, who were again involved in a try-fest. Six tries against the South Africans gave them a fifth try bonus point from their eight league wins this season.

This will be a tougher game than the Ospreys one last weekend and five straight wins away from home would be a fantastic return as Munster seek to maintain top spot in the conference.

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