'Absolute freak' Tadhg Beirne doing all he can to be Lions Test starter in South Africa
"He's an absolute freak! I don’t know how many times we’ve chatted about him."
A couple of bad injuries prevented Munster fans from seeing the consistent best of Tadhg Beirne, but he has been sensational for them throughout this entire season.
Against Leinster, on Saturday at The RDS, Beirne returned to his old stomping ground to once again haunt the team that let him go in 2016. For all their many, many talents, you suspect this type of Tadhg Beirne would be a guaranteed starter against La Rochelle, this weekend, if the Kildare native was still at the club.
Beirne stepped up with two more crucial turnovers - part of the 14 won by Munster - and made eight carries, 15 tackles and hit 25+ rucks as he proved the last of the doubters wrong that may have been still thinking he won't be a British & Irish Lion. The credit was in the bank already, from the Six Nations, but this Rainbow Cup flex will only reaffirm the thoughts of the Lions coaches.
On the latest House of Rugby Ireland episode [LISTEN from 1:30 below], host Fergus McFadden and former Munster winger Ronan O'Mahony discussed the weekend's result in the context of Beirne and Stander ahead of that big Lions announcement next Thursday.
One of the stand-out images, after Munster beat Leinster 27-3, was CJ Stander clutching onto the match ball as he headed back to the 'Away' dressing room. One rugby fan joked, on Twitter, that the only person capable of taking the ball off the big No.8 was Beirne.
"I saw CJ kept the match ball after the game," McFadden commented. "For him, he’s been on the receiving end of a number of losses against Leinster. So definitely a nice one for him before he flies back home – to have gotten one over the old rivals."
"We talked to Rob (Kearney), earlier, about trying to beat New Zealand many times, then eventually getting there," said O'Mahony.
"I suppose, on a smaller scale, it’s similar with Munster and Leinster. CJ has been on the back of eight or nine losses against Leinster. And then you get a win, it doesn’t matter how it comes, they all count and they’re all special. You know yourself from playing against Munster, and there’s always something on the other side as well. There’s always something at stake. It’s never a dead rubber. There’s always a good, intense rivalry."
For McFadden, he feels the Munster coaching duo of Johann van Graan and Stephen Larkham would have been intent on breaking the cycle of Leinster wins, over the past few seasons.
"They have done that," he continued, "and the bigger difference I saw, from the performance – and I realise it wasn’t the same intensity of that (PRO14) final – but I did think Munster did cause a lot more issues at the breakdown. You saw Tadhg. Damian De Allende got a couple of good turnovers on the ground. They seemed to pick their times better, and they got a bit of in-roads there."
"They did," O'Mahony responded:
"Tadhg Beirne at it again – he’s an absolute freak! I don’t know how many times we’ve chatted about him. He’s just sensational on the ground. He’s like Andrew Porter, from Leinster. When they get over the ball, they’re literally impossible to move.
"Munster definitely more accurate around that, they held onto the ball better and they seemed like they were playing without any major constraints. In the final, last month, they seemed to be under pressure from the get-go. They were a bit more relaxed.
"Obviously, as we talked about, with The Rainbow Cup, there wasn’t as much pressure on them to perform. And they had a full strength team against a second-string Leinster team, so they were probably looking at it, going, ‘This is one we should take advantage of’, and they did. They won pretty convincingly."
With rounds of Challenge and Champions Cup semi-finals coming up this weekend, Munster players have another break before The Rainbow Cup round two game in May.
That was Tadhg Beirne's last outing before Warren Gatland selects and announces his Lions squad. He had already done enough, before Saturday's game, but no harm giving everyone a refresher while he was out there.