Tuesday 22 January 2019

Munster praying new boy Beirne stays fit and well for next phase

Scarlets' Tadhg Beirne. Photo: Sportsfile
Scarlets' Tadhg Beirne. Photo: Sportsfile
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

When Munster announced they had nailed down Tadhg Beirne for next season, it looked like the best piece of business any club would manage in this part of the world this season.

What Leinster allowed to leave was a decent player who in the space of three seasons with the Scarlets has grown into a Test player in waiting.

There won't be much delay on sorting that last bit. Joe Schmidt will name Beirne in his squad for three Tests in Australia in June. In which case Munster's prime concern will be that he comes back in one piece. And they should be concerned.

The only reason Beirne was not part of the Grand Slam campaign was because he was operating on the limit with Scarlets. They have got incredible value out of him over two seasons, and he tops the minutes-played category (1,350 - second only to the Kings' Berton Klaasen, across all clubs) in the Guinness Pro14. So for Joe Schmidt to try and extract some more - being out of the Irish system meant his game-time couldn't be controlled - would have meant pushing everyone's luck. So he didn't.

But with the Pro14 now front and centre for Scarlets, Beirne is unlikely to be getting a break any time soon. So you'd hope that as soon as Schmidt gets him into Ireland camp he gives him a day off to rest up and learn the calls.

By now Beirne's value is not up for debate. Despite switching between second-row and back-row, his poaching stats in the Pro14 are off the charts - at 37, he is leading the league. Saturday at the Aviva wasn't his happiest day out, as part of a Scarlets pack beaten off the park, yet still be managed 11 carries. It was the highest total among the away forwards. And he put in the same number of tackles. As well as scoring his team's only try.

And that doesn't include his contribution to Scarlets' seven lineouts from nine throws - including one sublime effort he controlled with one hand. So you can see why Munster are praying his arrival in Limerick does not come with a physio's note.

Interestingly, he was asked after the Leinster game if he'd like to see Munster making it an all-Irish final, and his response was perfect.

"To be honest, I don't really care," he said. "I'm just playing for Scarlets now and I've another few weeks left here. We're out of Europe now."

If he had started banging on about Munster while sitting at a top table alongside coach Wayne Pivac and captain Ken Owens, it would have been disrespectful. And Munster would have picked up on that straight away.

They know that when Beirne lands he will transfer loyalty to them, lock, stock and barrel. Scarlets gave him a gateway into the upper reaches of the pro game in this corner of the world when Leinster were leaving him in the lurch; Munster now are opening the door to him continuing that, but with a green jersey thrown in.

His durability has been remarkable but if he wasn't so effective - and versatile - Pivac wouldn't be sending him out week after week.

Munster will be praying it all keeps fine until he switches to a different shade of red. And beyond.

Irish Independent

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