Tadhg Beirne relieved to see World Cup gamble pay off
Secondrow adapting to Ireland system after turning down chance to represent Wales
Ireland’s Tadhg Beirne: ‘I think I’ve definitely improved over the course of the last few weeks.’ Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Tadhg Beirne’s decision to relocate from Llanelli to Munster in 2018 was with playing for Ireland and this World Cup in mind. Ironically, part of the temptation from the Scarlets to extend his stay beyond two seasons was to make him eligible for Wales in time for the World Cup, but the decision to come home has been vindicated.
“It was all worth it in the end. If I was still in Wales, who knows, I could have ended up being here if Warren Gatland had picked me. Who knows? But my goal was to play for my own country and that’s why I came back. Luckily enough I am here.”
All of Beirne’s 19 starts with Munster last season were in the secondrow, as were his first three for Ireland. When Joe Schmidt came to him at the start of pre-season and said Beirne would be reverting to backrow in the warm-up games, that seemed to offer him more scope to prove his worth.
Even so, recalling D-Day last Sunday week, Beirne admitted: “It was a long day alright. A day full of anxiety I suppose. I was actually with Chrissy [Farrell] because we got back late from Wales. We stayed in Carton House on Saturday.
“We got up and had breakfast and actually ended up playing a bit of golf. Then I met up with two of my mates and we went bowling, so I kept myself fairly occupied for the day to keep my mind off it.”
On hearing of his inclusion, he says he felt “pure relief, to be honest”.
“I knew it was tight. I knew there were a lot of lads there who could have been selected. I could have been selected as a backrow or a secondrow, so I wasn’t sure what was going on.”
The Kildare native and product of Clongowes Wood and the Leinster academy still owes a debt to the Scarlets, where he played 57 times in two seasons, winning a Pro12 title in 2016-17 and the Pro14 Players’ Player of the Season in 2017-18.
Wayne Pivac and the coaching staff game him a free role, especially in defence, to fully utilise his trademark abilities in the jackal.
“It properly suited me and a few of the old lads with the way we defended at Scarlets. I was allowed to go after a lot of rucks. If it wasn’t for that then I wouldn’t be standing here today. That kind of helped me stand out a bit at times. A sign of any good player is being able to fit into any system. I’m trying to fit into a system here and I think I’m doing alright so far.”
At Munster, he had to conform more to their defensive system, while still given licence to win turnovers.
“I think with Munster I probably go out of the system a bit at times,” he admitted with a laugh that suggests he was reprimanded for doing so. “You might see me wandering behind a few players looking to attack rucks and I’ve spoken to Johann [van Graan] and JP [Ferreira] about doing that. They’re more than happy for me to do it because sometimes it can be successful. If you don’t take the ball than you’re slowing it down.
“Coming into international rugby, it’s another step up and teams are a bit more consistent around the ruck area so it can be a lot harder to steal the ball and if I’m going out of that system at all and it leads to a try, it can more than likely cost a game so it’s very important to stay within the system defensively and not chase rucks like I probably do at times with Munster.”
Adapting to the Ireland system has also been his toughest challenge to date.
“One hundred per cent. We had one-on-ones with all the coaches at the start of the pre-season and they said the one thing they wanted me to focus on was to improve my defence within the Irish system and I’ve worked really hard on that in terms of doing video and looking back at where I can improve there.”
“I think I’ve definitely improved over the course of the last few weeks. I’ve seen it myself. To the normal eye, a lot of people probably haven’t seen it but I’ve been pretty happy with how it’s gone.”
But with each step his goals have also risen.
“First you want to make the 23 and make a big impact for a starting slot. That’s what I’m here to do. I’m not here to sit back and have a holiday. I want to be part of the game and hopefully part of something special here with Ireland.”