Beirne out of isolation and back on the scoresheet for the Lions

The Munster and Ireland man is pushing for a Test start at blindside flanker.

Beirne has scored three tries for the Lions.
Beirne has scored three tries for the Lions.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

BEFORE THIS TOUR of South Africa, Warren Gatland told Tadhg Beirne to go after his real point of difference in the game but the Kildare man laughs self-deprecatingly when pointing out that he hasn’t been able to get a turnover just yet.

“I don’t think I’ve had a sniff in the breakdown in the two games I’ve played so I don’t think my point of difference has shown just yet, but hopefully in the next few games I’m involved, those opportunities will come,” said Beirne yesterday after the Lions’ 71-31 win over the Sharks.

The Munster forward had just finished his second game for the Lions at blindside flanker – where Gatland sees him as a Test option, rather than in the second row – and was content to have made another good impact overall.

His two tries were close-range finishes on a night when he made 12 carries – second only to back row partner Jack Conan’s 16 – and completed five tackles.

He might still be waiting for that first trademark breakdown poach but Beirne is making a positive impression for the Lions, having also delivered a try-scoring performance against Japan in Edinburgh just before the tour started.

It was simply a relief for Beirne to be playing on Saturday, given that he had spent two-and-a-bit days in isolation after being deemed a close contact of what later transpired to be a false positive Covid-19 case in the Lions squad.

Beirne was due to be involved in the first game against the Sharks on Wednesday but had to be withdrawn from the matchday 23 at a late stage.

tadhg-beirne-scores-a-try The Kildare man dives to score against the Sharks. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It was massively disappointing,” said Beirne. “Everything was up in the air, I was changed, bag ready to go, about to walk out the door to get on the bus and I got the phone call saying that I would have to isolate in the room.

“It was disappointing but it’s the circumstances around at the moment. You have to take it on the chin and thankfully the lads pulled together and managed to put in a serious performance on Wednesday.

“I had to watch it from the room but very much enjoyed the lads going out there and putting in a serious shift.”

Released on Friday afternoon along with seven other Lions players, Beirne says they “were probably getting a bit too excited” at the extended captain’s run that day.

Gatland’s squad flew from Johannesburg to Cape Town today, with the first Test against the Covid-hit Springboks now less than two weeks away and Beirne’s bid for a starting place will continue this week.

Despite the challenges caused by Covid, the Ireland international has enjoyed being part of this tour so far.

“It’s been incredible, to be honest. Getting an opportunity to play with such talent, you look around the room sometimes and you have to kind of pinch yourself that you’re experiencing this.

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tadhg-beirne-and-jonny-hill-in-a-maul Beirne is vying for a Test start at blindside. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“On the training field, the execution and the quality that’s there is really impressive and it’s so cool to be part of that. You are learning how different lads think, especially for me around the lineout – I’m picking lads’ brains there.

“Just in general, the speed of the game we’re playing is quick and it’s been really enjoyable. It’s also been a massive learning process for a few weeks.”

Off-pitch restrictions have denied the Lions a chance to get out and see South Africa but Beirne has also enjoyed getting to know new team-mates who he previously looked to make an impact against on the pitch for Scarlets, Munster, and Ireland.  

“That’s probably the special part of the Lions, you are playing these boys internationally in terms of Six Nations, so to get to play alongside them and get to know them outside of the rugby field is great. 

“Some lads aren’t [what you imagined]. We always laugh about Bundee – when we play him with Munster and Connacht, he’s not the same person off the field as he is on the field. We always have a laugh with him about that.

“You can never judge someone on the field then you get to know boys off the field, everyone has been great and a lot of lads surprise you in terms of how sound they are and how different they are compared to what they are on the field. It’s been cool to get to know them.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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