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Kieran Treadwell's stock rises for Ireland in excellent win over the Māori

The Ulster man was one of several players who put their hands up for Andy Farrell’s side.

Treadwell has stepped up on Ireland's tour.
Treadwell has stepped up on Ireland's tour.

THE EXPECTATION WAS that the core trio of Iain Henderson, James Ryan, and Tadhg Beirne would once again be the key figures in the second row on this Ireland tour of New Zealand.

But injury struck early for Henderson, meaning the Ulster skipper had to fly home before the games had even started.

Rather than calling up another lock, Andy Farrell opted to stick with what he had in his touring squad. Opportunity beckoned for Ryan Baird, Kieran Treadwell, and Joe McCarthy.

Baird’s sheer dynamism makes him an explosive possibility for Ireland, while there has been much excitement about the uncapped 21-year-old McCarthy’s potential. 

26-year-old Treadwell has tended to go slightly under the radar but he has been the one to put his hand up for Ireland in a convincing way on this tour.

Treadwell was brought in from the cold during this year’s Six Nations, Farrell calling on the Ulster man after it was confirmed that Ultan Dillane would leave Connacht to join La Rochelle at the end of the season.

Treadwell hadn’t played for Ireland since winning his first three caps under Joe Schmidt back in 2017 but he made his return to Test rugby with appearances off the bench against Italy and Scotland, scoring a try against the former.

irelands-kieran-treadwell-with-james-ryan-and-jack-conan Treadwell throws a pass in the first All Blacks Test.

And despite not always being a starter for Ulster – where Henderson and Alan O’Connor are often the first-choice pairing – Treadwell has managed to continue his momentum with Ireland over recent weeks in New Zealand.

He was a standout performer in today’s 30-24 win over the Māori All Blacks, delivering a comprehensive performance in which he was a real leader for the Irish team.

Treadwell’s athleticism was evident in the tackle as he thumped a few Māori forwards, while his own ball-carrying featured some important gainline wins.

The Ulster man was also calling the lineout for Ireland and though they had a stuttering start in that area, Ireland came good. Treadwell will have been pleased to get that responsibility and opportunity in what is a huge area of the game.

Treadwell was good in the first Māori match too, delivering some thumping tackles to show his power.

While there were calls for Ireland to pick Baird on the bench for the Test matches, Farrell opted for Treadwell, who really put himself about in his 16 minutes on the pitch with six carries, two passes, two tackles, and 10 ruck arrivals, albeit he did concede one penalty.

Treadwell then played 12 minutes off the bench in the second Test last weekend, although it was a quieter outing in which the ball only came his way once in attack. 

Today’s performance against the Māori was a pleasing one for Treadwell as he now hopes to see out a strong tour by backing up Ryan and Beirne from the Irish bench when they seek to seal a series win over the All Blacks this Saturday in Wellington. 

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kieran-treadwell-is-tackled-by-all-blacks-sam-cane Treadwell will hope to see out the Test series with Ireland on Saturday.

Of course, there may be temptation for Ireland to bring Baird back into the Test 23 given his explosive power. Baird gave us a few reminders of that off the bench today.

For Farrell, Treadwell’s performance was one of many positives on a good night for this Irish squad as the value of the two midweek games against the Māori was underlined. The IRFU and New Zealand Rugby deserve great credit for getting them organised.

The likes of Jeremy Loughman, Ciarán Frawley, Gavin Coombes, Stuart McClosky, Nick Timoney, Tom O’Toole, Niall Scannell, and Craig Casey showed some of their qualities too and while everyone who travelled to New Zealand will have been targeting Test involvement, many of this squad will be better for two outings against the Māori.

And it’s worth noting the central involvement of Connacht senior coach Peter Wilkins, who Farrell brought on this tour to bulk up the coaching staff. He will return to the western province a better coach for this experience.

Importantly, Ireland’s second-string maintained the winning momentum that the frontliners kick-started in last weekend’s second Test.

Now it’s onto the big show on Saturday.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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