Friday 22 March 2019

'You follow them, which is as good a compliment as I can give' - Peter O'Mahony backs dynamic Ireland duo

Peter O'Mahony and (inset) Beirne and Ryan
Peter O'Mahony and (inset) Beirne and Ryan
Keeping the faith: Peter O’Mahony expects James Ryan and Tadhg Beirne to deliver the goods against Wales in Cardiff tomorrow. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Five Six Nations games, five different second-row combinations.

If Joe Schmidt wanted to build depth throughout the tournament ahead of the World Cup, then he has certainly managed to do that in the engine room.

When Tadhg Beirne runs out at the Principality Stadium tomorrow, he will become the 35th player and the sixth lock used by Ireland this spring. Kieran Marmion could bring that tally to 36 if he gets off the bench.

Injuries have, of course, played a major part in Schmidt having to make so many adjustments, but in a World Cup year, that is no bad thing.

The loss of Devin Toner and Iain Henderson does, however, change the dynamic of the second-row in that neither James Ryan nor Beirne have called the lineout before at international level.

That responsibility will fall on Ryan's shoulders this weekend and, even though Beirne has more experience of running the set-piece at club level, the Leinster colossus is very much the one who will be calling the Ireland lineout for years to come, so why not get him started now?

Challenge

Ryan's first time calling the Leinster lineout was against Munster over Christmas, while he also did it against Toulouse at home in the Champions Cup.

Going up against Alun Wyn Jones and Co in Cardiff is a very different challenge.

"I've learned plenty off Hendy and Dev Toner over the last season or two," the 22-year old said.

"It's very much a shared responsibility. Tadhg calls with Munster and Pete has so much experience in that area and so does Rory Best. There will be plenty of communications along the line in that regard."

Ultan Dillane is unlucky to miss out on the bench, especially because Quinn Roux has never been seen as an impact player, but it was telling that Schmidt pointed to his ability to call the lineout.

From that end, there will be a big onus on Peter O'Mahony to assist Ryan in whatever needs. An outstanding lineout operator in his own regard, the Munster captain has been working closely with him all week and he has been impressed by what he has seen.

"We expect all of our guys to take some form of leadership," O'Mahony insists.

"Jamesy is no different. You see the way he plays, for such a young man, you can't help but follow him.

"That's the first thing you talk about when it comes to leadership. I suppose, particularly in rugby, your actions talk loudest. None more so than James Ryan. His actions talk loudest.

"Look, we have our little lineout group and we'll all row in like we do every week.

"Particularly with Jamesy, I've a little bit more experience I suppose playing a few more Tests and any help I can give him during the week I've tried to give to him, but he's a confident young fella, he does his homework and we get our confidence from our training week.

"He's been excellent all week. He's done his homework and we're all positive about him."

When Schmidt publicly announces his team for the coming weekend, he is generally flanked by one of his senior men, but yesterday it didn't go unnoticed that he brought Ryan with him to face the media. An empathic show of faith if ever there was one.

"He is a no-nonsense character," Schmidt said of Ryan.

"He is an intelligent young man, he is brilliant in the environment. He doesn't talk about doing things, he just gets on and gets them done. He has hugely impressed us.

"He is studious about the game, he is incredibly physically committed to delivering what he needs to do in the game. He is a champion for us. He is great value."

Wales may feel that they can get after the Ireland lineout without Toner and Henderson, yet the flip side of that is they won't be able to do much homework on how Ryan likes to call the set-piece.

"Yeah, I suppose that's a good way to look at it," O'Mahony agrees.

"We have a system and we're not going to be changing it a huge amount, but it's a little bit unknown for them as well. We've had a good week of training and he's been, as he always is, across his work."

Ryan is a man of few words off the pitch, but a different animal on it. You could say the same thing about Beirne, who will be relishing the chance to return to Wales for his Six Nations debut.

"There's similarities there, there are differences in personality and playing style," O'Mahony maintains.

"And as I said already, we've huge faith in them. They're two guys you follow, which is as good a compliment as I can give to anyone.

"They are guys who, when you look around, are going to lead from the front and the last thing you're going to have to do is worry about them.

"I think Tadhg Beirne has set his own standards over the last two and a half, three years.

"He gets his shot in the Six Nations and it's utterly deserved. He's put a lot of hard work in. He's got a couple of knocks here and there but he's worked hard over the last few weeks and guys know what he brings and how important he'll be to us.

"He's the complete package and I'm delighted to have him alongside us this weekend."

Irish Independent

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