Joe Schmidt explains why Tadhg Beirne was omitted from his Six Nations squad but doesn't rule out a call-up
European player of the year nominee Tadhg Beirne may play a part in this year's Six Nations, according to Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt.
There is an unwritten IRFU rule that means home-based players are favoured over Irish stars plying their trade abroad but with the 26-year-old returning to play with Munster next season an exception could be made.
The second row has been in stellar row for the reigning PRO14 champions Scarlets and played a huge role in their qualification for the Champions Cup quarter-finals, where they will face La Rochelle.
Speaking at the launch of the Six Nations, Schmidt revealed the reasons behind Beirne's omission from his squad for the upcoming tournament were the form of fellow locks in Ireland and the fact that he would have to return to Wales during the competition but also admitted that Beirne may be called up.
"It's a complex one when they're playing away from Ireland. He's committed to coming back to Munster next year, which is super and we had a conversation at the start of the season about that happening," he said.
"We had a really good conversation recently too. I think the problem with Tadhg is that with [World Rugby's] Regulation 9 it's a camp week this week, but that's only a three-day camp week. So if we take him to Spain, we're required to make him back available to Scarlets.
"He's played around 1350 minutes already this season - our players don't usually play that much. Now, I had a great chat with Wayne Pivac and they've had injuries to Jake Ball and Lewis Rawlins, so that happens in squads sometimes.
"Because he's so resilient and because he's played so well - I thought he was huge in the last two games and in the Toulon game particularly - but he's going to come in and visit us, and we'll get to catch up again.
"I've known Tadhg since he was in Leinster and I think he's a really committed young man as well. I wouldn't rule him out completely, but it is complicated.
"It also means that during the Six Nations, [we would have that] backwards and forwards. So if we have those camp weeks or regeneration weeks, where players get a bit of a rest, he's got to go back and be available to play for Scarlets.
"That intermittent involvement with the squad, particularly when it's your first involvement, is probably one of the things that just tipped the balance away from him.
"And the other thing that tipped the balance was I thought James Ryan was really good against Montpellier for Leinster. Iain Henderson is playing big for Ulster, I thought he played big last week.
"Dev Toner has carried really well for Leinster, as well as his lineout acumen. Quinn Roux has been a really physical contributor to the Connacht cause, and Ultan Dillane's repeated high-intensity game involvements have been really good as well.
"When you stack that up and you've still got guys like Kieran Treadwell and Billy Holland, who are working hard and playing well in Ireland, you're always trying to get that balance right about selecting Tadhg with that intermittent involvement and with those high game minutes.
"It's just a little bit complicated but that complication will cease at the end of the season and that may be an opportunity."