Beirne signed a three-year deal with the IRFU. Gary Carr/INPHO
road less travelled

'A central contract is something I never really thought I'd get in my career'

Tadhg Beirne’s new three-year deal with the IRFU speaks volumes of his quality.

TADHG BEIRNE KICKING a 50:22 in Paris didn’t really come as a huge surprise.

We’ve all got accustomed to these flashes of skill from the Munster forward, who so often delivers game-changing moments for province and country. Ireland were unable to strike from the lineout Beirne earned with his kick down the left-hand side two weekends ago at Stade de France but it was another example of his multi-faceted quality.

“I just put my foot to it and thought if it hit along the ground, it might get out,” says Beirne of that kick just after he had stooped to gather the bobbling ball.

“I didn’t know if it was going to be a 50:22 or if it was going to be outside the 22 but it worked out anyway, which is the main thing, or I might have been getting a bollocking from the lads.

“My first [50:22], definitely. Hopefully not the last. I’ve had a few kicks all right, a few shunts as well!”

Kicking isn’t a core part of Beirne’s job for Ireland but then he is a player who tends to break the mould. He’s a man whose role is wide-ranging and ever-changing.

The 30-year-old is a breakdown specialist, a turnover threat of relentless work-rate. His passing and offloading are strong, so too is his lineout and maul defence. He can carry and tackle with energy, as well as clearing out rucks in attack.

The rounded nature of his game has helped Beirne to become a key figure in this Ireland squad, that status underlined by last weekend’s announcement that Beirne had signed a three-year central contract with the IRFU through to 2025. 

Not bad for a fella who nearly quit rugby after being released by his native Leinster in 2016.

“It’s something I definitely wouldn’t have expected at certain times in my career,” says Beirne of his new contract.

“The last two seasons have gone particularly well for me. I’ve always said there’s a lot of luck involved in terms of getting opportunities along the way but I’ve certainly just been prepared for them and thankfully I’ve been able to take them. 

tadhg-beirne Beirne has been brilliant for Ireland and Munster. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“I’ve had an incredible year. It’s been disappointing with some results and that but to get to this point and get a central contract, it was a massive honour and I’m delighted to accept it.”

Beirne has done it the hard way. Having finished up with the Leinster academy in 2015 after an injury-stricken few seasons in which he also worked as a pizza delivery driver, Beirne asked Leinster boss Leo Cullen for another chance and a trial period led to a one-year deal.

However, the Kildare man couldn’t break through and he was close to finishing up with rugby in 2016 before Scarlets came calling, following up on a recommendation from Lansdowne coach Mike Ruddock.

Beirne’s time in Wales started with more injury woe and he even found himself playing semi-professional rugby with Llandovery RFC at one point before things really took off under Wayne Pivac at Scarlets, where he shone in the second row and back row.

“I was at the brink of packing it in and then through my Scarlets career I didn’t know if I would ever come back to Ireland,” says Beirne.

“I suppose things just picked up towards the end of my first year and I kind of kicked on in my second year.

“But I don’t think I ever expected to get into a position that I’m in now where I’ve gone on to play with the Lions and had a good run of games starting for Ireland. And now to get a central contract as well, it’s a massive honour for me and it’s something where I never really thought I’d get to in my career.”

Having won the Pro14 with Scarlets in 2017, Beirne then agreed on a return to Ireland with Munster before making his Test debut under Joe Schmidt on the tour of Australia in the summer of 2018. 

Beirne was part of the 2019 World Cup squad but his international career has really taken off under Andy Farrell since, leading on to his 2021 Lions selection.

“I’ve learnt so much in this brand of rugby that Faz is about, it’s quite simple in terms of what he’s asking of us,” says Beirne.

“It makes so much sense, you always feel like you’re involved in everything that is going on on the field which makes it incredibly enjoyable.

tadhg-beirne Beirne has thrived under Andy Farrell. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“Other types of game plan and that, you come in and out of the game in terms of involvement but what is being asked of us here, I’m involved every single time. It’s definitely some of the most enjoyable rugby I’ve been involved in. “

Beirne keeps on adding strings to his bow, including captaining Munster against Ulster back in January.

Munster senior coach Stephen Larkham recently praised Beirne for his leadership and thirst for improvement.

“I probably wouldn’t lead as well as a lot of the lads, certainly in here or back at Munster,” says Beirne.

“It was a massive honour for me to be asked to captain Munster and I enjoyed it but you know with the likes of Pete [O'Mahony], Jack [O'Donoghue], Earlsy, all of those other boys back in Munster, I think they have a natural ability to lead compared to my type of leadership.

“I probably wouldn’t speak as well as they would but I’d probably try and lead by example than use my words as such.”

Beirne’s actions continue to speak very loudly indeed.

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