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'It's always been in my head that I wasn't good enough' - Beirne

The Ireland international wasn’t happy with how the Lions tour worked out for him.

Beirne is back in Ireland's second row today.
Beirne is back in Ireland's second row today.
Image: IRFU/Ryan Bailey/INPHO

ACROSS IRELAND AND Britain today, there will be a host of Lions returning to international rugby. Virtually all of them will have some frustration to burn off.

For some, it’s the frustration of feeling they could have taken on the Springboks with a more ambitious game plan. For others, it’s the frustration of not having featured prominently in the Test series.

Tadhg Beirne is in the latter camp. The fact that he is now a Test Lion is a huge achievement, given that he was close to quitting pro rugby as recently as 2016. 

But the same drive that helped Beirne to become a Lion means he can’t be content with two cameos off the bench in the first and second Tests in South Africa before Warren Gatland dropped him from the matchday 23 altogether for the third.

“Look, it was an incredibly enjoyable experience getting to play alongside players I’m never going to play alongside again, getting to know them,” said Beirne. “That was pretty special.

“I’m always going to look back on it with a smile, it was an incredible achievement and so good to be part of.

“There’s always going to be a lot of frustration at my end, though. Personally, I felt I had been playing quite well and I knew myself and Courtney [Lawes] were kind of head-to-head going into that first game.

“When I didn’t get selected, I couldn’t really argue much because he played exceptionally well.

“The frustrating thing for me was the lack of game time in those first two games, not getting an opportunity to put my hand up at all, and then being overlooked for the last game was something that will sit with me for a while and I’ll question.

tadhg-beirne-dejected Beirne had a frustrating experience with the Lions. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“That was the team that he decided could win the series and I wasn’t in it. It’s their decision at the end of the day.”

So as he takes to the field at the Aviva Stadium today in Ireland’s second row against Japan, Beirne is out to prove a point.

He has always had self-doubt and now it’s time to crush that nagging sense once again. 

“For me, it’s about continuing to prove to others that… I’m always battling a stigma through my own career, it’s been in my head that I wasn’t good enough,” said Beirne.

“You’re always battling that and it’s just another one of those.

“It was coaches who I won’t have to prove anything to again in the future, I presume. I suppose with the performances going forward, I just want to put down a marker for them to look back and think, ‘Maybe I made a mistake.’”

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Beirne’s Lions involvement meant his start to this season with Munster was delayed but he got two 80-minute outings for the province under his belt in October, with one of them coming in the second row and the other at blindside flanker.

He starts this international season in Ireland’s second row alongside James Ryan and is determined to pick up where he left off in green, which was by being outstanding for Andy Farrell’s side in the 2021 Six Nations.

Beirne is cognisant of the fact that younger locks and back rows such as Ryan Baird and Gavin Coombes are pushing for spots in Ireland’s matchday 23, but he certainly feels much more at home at Test level these days.

“Coming in under Joe [Schmidt], it was a lot of the unknown and constantly on the periphery as well, I wasn’t really a starter, I didn’t really know where I stood,” said Beirne.

“Look, I’m not a guaranteed starter as it is now under Faz, I still have to continue to improve myself every time I come in here and wear green.

“I definitely feel I’m more confident and more comfortable in this squad than I would have been two years ago and that’s quite an exciting prospect for me for sure.”

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella, and Gavan Casey look ahead to Ireland-Japan with the help of Japanese rugby expert Rich Freeman, while the lads also assess ‘Tier Two’ rugby two years out from the World Cup:

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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