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Tuesday 31 January 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Tom Maher/INPHO Beirne broke his nose against the Springboks.
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Broken nose healed, Beirne welcomes target on Ireland's backs
The Munster man made his Test debut against the Wallabies back in 2018.

IT’S THE SUMMER of 2018 in Melbourne and a couple of Irish journalists are huddled around Tadhg Beirne in a corridor at AAMI Park after Ireland have beaten the Wallabies in the second Test of a series they’ll go on to win the following weekend.

Beirne is a new face in this setting. Everyone has admired his play for the Scarlets but not everyone has interviewed him before. In fairness, Beirne had never managed to make the breakthrough in Leinster before departing for Wales.

The Kildare man is literally beaming with pride as he tries to sum up what it felt like to make his Test debut in front of his family only two years on from being let go by Leinster for the second time. Beirne hadn’t even joined Munster yet when he won his first Ireland cap under Joe Schmidt.

Fast forward to yesterday and it’s very different scenario as a few more journalists gather around Beirne at the IRFU’s training centre in Abbotstown ahead of another clash with the Wallabies this weekend.

These days, Beirne is one of Ireland’s key men under Andy Farrell. He’s a player who makes a different against the best teams in the world. The 30-year-old has come a long way since Melbourne.

“That was obviously my first cap so it was incredibly special,” recalls Beirne, who now has 35 Ireland caps.

“It was a completely different environment to what we have in here now so I think when I went in, it was a bit of a blur that whole tour because it was my first campaign and I was incredibly nervous trying to fit in as best as I could.

tadhg-beirne-celebrates-with-mother-brenda-father-gerry-and-sisters-jennifer-alannah-and-caoimhe Dan Sheridan / INPHO Beirne with his family after his Test debut in 2018. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“There was so much information being thrown at you and obviously then the whole occasion. I’m probably a little bit more experienced in terms of that side of things, so certainly I’m enjoying putting on the jersey a lot more than I was able to my first time in terms of the nerves and stuff.

“But yeah, it was an incredible experience, the first time the whole family were probably together in a long, long time so they were all there for that, which was extra special for me, for sure.”

There’s competition in the second row and back row for Ireland but Beirne has pushed himself into the must-pick bracket with his performances over the last two years.

He was superb once again in Ireland’s win over the Springboks two weekends ago before backing that up against Fiji last Saturday, even if he wasn’t sure he was going to be fit to play the latter clash due to the broken nose he suffered against the South Africans.

“I actually don’t know who did it, to be honest,” says Beirne. “I went down on a poach and when I came up, it was on the other side of my face. Not much I could do there.

“They have brilliant medical staff in the Aviva so straight after the game they had pushed it back into place, which certainly helped.

“Throughout the week I was just doing non-contact in case I did break it again. It was one of those things where it might break, it might not, but hope for the best. Thankfully, it didn’t break in the end.”

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tadhg-beirne-celebrates-after-the-game Dan Sheridan / INPHO Beirne after Ireland's win over the Springboks. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

So all is well for Beirne to start again on Saturday against the Wallabies as Farrell’s side look for a clean sweep of their autumn series but also their best performance of the campaign so far.

The Aussies will be highly motivated to prove themselves after a much-changed side was beaten by Italy last Saturday. Dave Rennie’s first-choice team nearly pulled off a win over France the weekend before and that’s the kind of challenge Beirne expects.

“I can imagine that when they looked at this fixture list they probably looked at us and were like, ‘we’re going to go after Ireland’. That’s what we’re expecting,” says Beirne.

“We’re expecting them to come after us.

“There’s a target on our back at the moment and that’s brilliant, the way we want it to be, so no different this week to any other week for us but for them I can imagine this is a game they’ve been targeting.”

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