Beirne's 'dream game' sees him work well with Wycherley in Munster pack

The 22-year-old Bantry man was quietly impressive alongside the Ireland international last weekend.

FRIDAY NIGHT’S GAME is the kind of encounter that Munster signed RG Snyman for but his ACL injury cruelly deprives the big South African lock of a chance to make a difference in a big Guinness Pro14 semi-final against Leinster.

The South African’s injury has, however, opened the door for a young second row that Munster are very excited about.

22-year-old Bantry man Fineen Wycherley started alongside the returning Tadhg Beirne last weekend against Connacht in what proved to be a nicely balanced second row combination. Ireland international Beirne was player of the match with an excellent try-scoring performance but Wycherley quietly and effectively went about his business too.

tadhg-beirne-celebrates-with-fineen-wycherley-after-scoring-a-try Beirne and Wycherley worked well together last weekend. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

So while Munster are gutted about Snyman and have huge sympathy for him, they’re focusing on the positives of the situation as Beirne and Wycherley look set to continue as the starting locks against Leinster, with the experienced Billy Holland another option.

“Tadhg had a dream game back, didn’t he?” says Munster assistant coach Graham Rowntree, “apart from his yellow card, which you can’t have.

“With the breakdown, we’ve got to make good decisions there about when we’re challenging the ball. He was certainly putting himself around there and he’s shown everyone what Tadhg can do in terms of breakdown pressure.

“He’s quick, isn’t he? He’s quick, you saw that for his try. His work-rate was good, he’s an outstanding lineout forward. So it was good to get him back and it was a good combination with Fin.

“Fin’s one for the future. Again, we’ve got good stocks in the second row when they’re not all injured. I’m impressed with Fin. He goes about his business quietly, good work-rate. He’s got good little deft touches on him as well, he’s almost got the touches of a back-rower with his handling.

“So they’ve proved a good combination. I’m delighted to see Tadhg back. I mean, it was Saracens in December when he got that horrible injury, so a dream game back for him.”

Munster had a 100% return at their lineout against Connacht, winning all 22 of their own throws, having also run at 100% on their 13 throws against Leinster the week before – as well as disrupting or stealing Ronan Kelleher’s throw on several occasions.  

tadhg-beirne-scores-a-try Beirne was a try-scorer for Munster against Connacht. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Rowntree praised Beirne and Holland for their leadership in that area, as well as highlighting head coach Johann van Graan’s influence, underlining that he’s “really impressed with how diligent we are around the lineout.”

If Munster opt for a change in their back row this weekend, they could bring in even more lineout and maul quality in the form of Jack O’Donoghue, who was dynamic off the bench against Connacht on his return from concussion.

Jackal specialist Chris Cloete started at openside against the western province, with Tommy O’Donnell having worn the number seven shirt versus Leinster, meaning Munster have nice options to pick from alongside Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander.

“It’s about the balance, the back-row balance to the team,” says Rowntree. “You’ve got guys there all with different stand-out qualities. It’s how we use them.

“We’re mindful of the correct impact player coming on the field as well, and what we want there. But certainly guys put their hands up for selection on Sunday.

“Jack was good coming on the field. Crikey, he’s athletic and he’s energetic. Chris gives us that breakdown pressure. Like I keep saying, against this team we need to be very selective and very careful as to when we’re going in to challenge that breakdown because we can’t be numbers down elsewhere.”

Munster’s bench selection will be interesting too, with van Graan and co. having opted for a 6/2 split against Connacht last weekend.

munsters-jack-odonoghue Jack O'Donoghue is firmly in the mix for a starting spot. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Rowntree joked that he would like “eight forwards on the bench” if possible and insisted Munster haven’t made up their minds on the replacements yet, but hinted that they’re leaning towards another 6/2 split.

“I’d say the data… you can look at the game and you can see where all the action takes place and it’s an attritional game right now, particularly around the breakdown, so there are always benefits in having a 6/2.

“I think there is a lot of teams doing that around the world, but then you have got to weigh up your balance there and your backs covering and the kicking game.

“We have not decided what we are going to do there yet, but there are benefits to a 6/2. As I said, the more forwards the better, as far as I’m concerned.”

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