Thursday 19 September 2019

'The guy is just an impact player' - Luke Fitzgerald backs Tadhg Beirne in World Cup selection battle

Tadhg Beirne during Ireland Rugby squad training at The Campus in Quinta do Lago, Faro, Portugal. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Tadhg Beirne during Ireland Rugby squad training at The Campus in Quinta do Lago, Faro, Portugal. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Tony Considine

When Connacht lock Ultan Dillane was cut from Joe Schmidt's preliminary World Cup squad to free a place for a player who wouldn't technically qualify to play for Ireland until three days later, it reopened the debate around the residency rules in rugby.

While there's no denying that it's a rule that has served Ireland well, bringing the likes of Bundee Aki and CJ Stander into the fold, the three-year residency period has been a controversial point with many and World Rugby have now pushed the rule out to five years.

However, that still leaves a number of players already based here for whom the old rule applies, the latest being South African-born Jean Kleyn, who qualified on August 8 and made his debut against Italy two days later. And with further cuts to follow before the squad is trimmed down to the final 31, ex-Leinster and Ireland star Luke Fitzgerald is still uneasy about Kleyn's inclusion.

"How gutting would it be to see one of our own lads not on the plane?" Fitzgerald told The Left Wing, Independent.ie's rugby podcast in association with Aldi.

"There's already one, Ultan Dillane, sitting at home. Excellent player, came all the way up through the system. It's a World Cup, I want to see the Irish guys go. That's disappointing to me.

"It's not Jean Kleyn's fault, I'm not having a go at him. It's my own opinion, I'd just like to see Dillane go, he's a Kerry lad, he's come all the way up through the age grades.

"Same with Tadhg Beirne, both excellent rugby players. And Jean Kleyn won't be starting. It'll be Dev (Toner) or Iain (Henderson) and James Ryan will 100% be starting."

Of those remaining with the squad, it's Beirne whose place is most at risk from his Munster teammate's addition to the camp. But for Fitzgerald, it's not simply the Kildare man's place of birth that should be considered when Joe Schmidt makes his final call after the next two warm-up clashes with England and Wales.

"I would rather have someone on my bench who could make an impact. A Tadhg Beirne. The guy is just an impact player," he explained.

"He can get you a turnover which is one of the most damaging things to do to an opposition team because it's where you can attack from. You can release your Keith Earls, your Stockdale's. I don't want someone who's just going to fit in and do a job.   

"I also think Beirne can play six so could be a viable option to go there. If I didn't think so highly of Rhys Ruddock he could go there. And he's excellent in the row. He can turn a team or get a penalty. Beirne for me has to go.   

"I actually really like Kleyn as a player, he's been brilliant for Munster and he is a class player. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure a really good guy but I just want to see the Irish player there."

Online Editors

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