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Beirne on his man of match award: 'I said to Will, they thought I was you'

The Munster player has graduated from the bench to become a key player on Andy Farrell’s Ireland side.

Tadhg Beirne claims a line-out.
Tadhg Beirne claims a line-out.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

TADHG BEIRNE IS 29, holder of 20 caps and winner of so many man of the match awards lately that his house stinks of champagne.

The latest bottle of bubbly arrived on Saturday, prompting him to joke that it was a case of mistaken identity. “I said to Will Connors (a fellow wearer of a blue scrum cap) they must have thought I was you.” Leaving his self-deprecation to one side, no one can argue that Beirne is a man in form.

More to the point, he is a man on a mission. Not content to just be a bib, he has progressed from filler-inner to starter, Rome being the third game on the spin he has lined out for Ireland. “Getting man of the match, for sure it is a special moment because I’ve never got one for Ireland before,” Beirne said afterwards. “At the same time I was quite surprised because a number of players did well.”

In the eyes of the judges, Beirne did better. And in the verdict of the only judge that matters, Andy Farrell, his rugby is of a high enough level at the moment for a place to be found for him, not just against Italy, when he was relocated from second row to flanker but in the opening game of the championship, when Iain Henderson was benched.

johnny-sexton-presents-tadhg-beirne-with-the-guinness-six-nations-player-of-the-match-award Johnny Sexton presents Beirne with the man of the match award. Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

Think back to how it started for him, the failure to make it at Leinster, the contemplation of a life in the nine-to-five world, the career rehabilitation at Scarlets, the eventual call from Ireland.

His first two caps were off the bench, his next two in the calendar fillers during the November series, against Italy and USA. A first Six Nations start – this time two years ago – went poorly in Wales; the only games he started in the World Cup were against Russia and Samoa.

So you get the picture. He’s a late bloomer, only now finding his feet on the international scene. “It has been great to get a regular run of games (with Ireland),” he said. “It is something I have been dying to do because I feel the more I play, the more I fit into this system and am able to build on my performances.”

The same could be said for Ireland, in general. Notwithstanding Italy’s mediocrity, there was much to admire about what Farrell’s team delivered on Saturday; six tries, 48 points, two debutants, a set-piece to be proud of.

“A lot of our focus was just getting our first win of the season. So we are delighted to have done that,” said Beirne. “We’ll look at the performance and we’ll improve where we need to.”

michele-lamaro-with-tadhg-beirne Beirne battles for the ball with Michele Lamaro. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Where specifically do they have to do so?

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“Discipline is one area. We gave away a few penalties just before the half (when Italy scored their try). In the pack as well, we didn’t always take the opportunities that we could have.”

Yet there were things to be satisfied with, not least their attacking intent from the off. “That has always been there in us,” said Beirne. “Sometimes, though, it was just not working for us. Faz (Farrell) has really been putting a massive focus on our attack since we came into this camp, looking at how we can improve. We are very conscious of the fact that we were doing well but not finishing off (moves) with tries. We had the same plan in terms of attack (on Saturday as we had against France and Italy) so not much has changed.”

Except this time they successfully transferred their plans from the training ground to the pitch. “It is much about picking the right lines, running those lines with proper intent, being a proper option, not just jogging onto the ball, but giving that ballplayer options out the back, front door options, making the defenders make decisions. We were much better in that area on Saturday.

“Having said all that, getting our first win is not going to mean much unless we back it up against Scotland. They have been playing really well.”

Ireland are on the verge of joining them.

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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