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'Tadhg played with a rib injury and a lot of players wouldn't have'

Tadhg Beirne was impressive once again for the Scarlets last night against Leinster.

FOR THOSE WHO haven’t been keeping an eye on the Scarlets this season, last night at the RDS was eye-opening. And for more reasons than the brilliant collective display.

Their first-half attack was sensational, while they showed grit and intelligence in defence with only 14 men for the entire second half. But for many watching Irish rugby fans, the performance of Tadhg Beirne that would have made them sit up even further.

Tadhg Beirne celebrates Beirne was superb in the Scarlets' second row. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The 24-year-old was the best lock on the pitch – although Lewis Rawlins put his hand up impressively too – as he delivered a muscular display on his return to his home province.

The Kildare native is in his first season with the Scarlets, having suffered with injuries throughout his time at Leinster, but his impact has been magnificent and he’s been one of the best players in the Guinness Pro12.

His 15 tackles last night – none missed – had venom in them, while he won a turnover and made seven carries in a busy performance that also included two passes and two wins in the Scarlets’ lineout. There were two vital steals on Leinster’s throw too, as Beirne proved a thorn in the side for Leo Cullen’s team.

Making it all the more impressive was the fact that Beirne was injured.

“He played well, didn’t he?” said Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac after his side’s 27-15 win. “He’s got a big engine, he goes all day long.

“Against his old team out here, I don’t think we would have ever stopped him taking the field. So we’re very pleased for Tadhg, he’s put in a great effort this season.

“The move for him has paid dividends, hasn’t it? He’s got a lot of game time and he’s played well for us, so we’re very happy for him.”

Tadhg Furlong tackled by Tadhg Beirne and Rob Evans Beirne puts in a hit on Tadhg Furlong. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Beirne has taken up the option of a second year with the Scarlets, so will be with the Welsh region next season, and his move has been a huge success so far.

Last night was his 17th Pro12 appearance of the campaign, while he also has four Champions Cup starts under his belt – excelling in the back-to-back ties with French side Toulon in the pool stages.

The former Ireland U20 international has worn the six shirt for Pivac’s side too, something he did under Mike Ruddock at Lansdowne. Indeed, Beirne’s athleticism and rounded skillset were among the reasons Ruddock recommended the Eadestown man to Pivac.

6’6″ Beirne’s performance last night had some supporters asking whether the Scarlets man should be considered by Ireland in the future, although it is likely that he would have to return to one of the provinces if he was to be involved at national level.

“He’s certainly done well,” is Pivac’s take when asked if Beirne is good enough for Test rugby. “Is he big enough for a second row at international level? That may be a question mark but certainly at the level he’s operating at now he’s doing a very, very good job and the fact he can play in more than one position, I think he’s an asset for any team.”

Beirne certainly picked up a few new fans last night and his progress will be followed with interest.

Another of the standouts for the Scarlets was openside James Davies, who was all-action and an absolute pest for Leinster to deal with.

Tadhg Beirne celebrates his side winning a penalty Beirne and the Scarlets stunned Leinster. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Davies is not part of Wales’ summer squad, even with Justin Tipuric and Sam Warburton on Lions duty, and Pivac certainly doesn’t understand his omission.

Davies was even pressed into duty on the wing after Steff Evans’ red card last night, and delivered there too.

“I’ve said from day one that he’s a fantastic player,” said Pivac. “I rate him very, very highly and his performances over three seasons now have been top drawer, not one or two weeks like some other players.

“As a group, we support James and we think he’s a fantastic player. If we had a choice out of him and other opensides in the country, we’d take James every day.

“You saw his work out there. We put him on the wing, he doesn’t flinch, just goes out there and does the job. That ball he went back to and took in the air with two hands, just his positioning and reading of the play.

“He’s got a great skillset, a very big heart and you saw that when the boys had to dig deep, he was one of many who did that. We rate him very highly.”

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Murray Kinsella

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