"He completely out-played Itoje. You barely saw Itoje as the game went on"
It's mad to think that, by the time he turned 26, Tadhg Beirne hadn't played a game for Ireland.
As we talk about him now as one of the players of the Six Nations and a stone-cold shoo-in for the British and Irish Lions squad, it's mad to think that Tadhg Beirne was almost the one that got away.
Injuries stalled the progress of this underage prospect and in the academy he would remain for a long time at Leinster. Former teammate Fergus McFadden told a story on last week's House of Rugby that tells you where the man has come from.
"He was still in the academy, obviously, and he hadn’t really got a chance with the firsts. Sean Cronin was having a pizza. He had played the game on a Saturday and he had ordered a pizza, from Base or somewhere, and the doorbell goes. Sean opens up the door and Tadhg Beirne is there with the Base hat on and his pizza.
'Mate, f*** off, what are you doing here?’
‘I’m here to deliver your pizza!’
Before he was delivering turnovers and steals for Munster and Ireland, Tadhg Beirne had a tasty side gig 🍕 😅 pic.twitter.com/IAH7cLYn1m
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) March 18, 2021
"Obviously, Sean’s going, ‘Where’s Jeremy Beadle? I’m getting stitched up here’. And Seanie goes, ‘Mate, f*** off, what are you doing here?’ And Tadhg goes, ‘I’m here to deliver your pizza’. Sean obviously panics, takes it off him and goes inside. Doesn’t even give him a tip! So, what a turnaround it’s been for Tadhg Beirne. Here we are talking about him as a Lions player and he was previously delivering pizzas..."
Delivering Pizzas kept him going but Beirne's true lifeline came from Welsh side Scarlets, a lifeline that would eventually transform his career. Beirne lived up to it across the water and when Munster came calling in 2018, this fella was showing signs of good things to come.
The Six Nations campaign has been Beirne's breakthrough and Saturday's humbling of Maro Itoje was arguably his finest hour.
"Little things, little moments turn the game, and it's the little things that Tadhg Beirne nails," said host Eimear Considine on this week's show.
"He's a menace and it doesn't matter where he is, whether in the back row or second row, he does exactly what he's supposed to do in such an effective way."
"Everyone was talking up Maro Itoje before the game," added Ian Madigan, "Effectively, Tadhg did what you'd expect Itoje to do. Bar the very start of the game, he completely out-played Itoje. You barely saw Itoje as the game went on. Tadhg's ability to get over the ball, he's up there with the best in the world at it. He's coming up consistently with two, three, four turnovers a game and they're big, big moments."
"Maro Itoje would have been pulled off the pitch if he was in any other team"
Analysis of an action-packed Six Nations weekend, including that big Ireland win over England https://t.co/gFNEdKKKCA
— House of Rugby (@HouseOfRugby) March 22, 2021
One moment at the start of the second half epitomised the Beirne supremacy for Eimear Considine. Under the Itoje-directed English line-out, Beirne was first in to create a maul which won Ireland a pivotal penalty.
"Beirne got a turnover off the line-out, he just got in there and created a maul. It's the smarts that he has, the game understanding. They're the moments that are so huge to Ireland," Considine said.
All told, it was a dominant showing from Ireland's tight five on Saturday, but there's no doubting that it was Beirne who led the charge.
"The last time we played them we went into our shells but on Saturday we won those pressure moments and put the pressure back on England, we got good turnovers at critical moments, the boys delivered at the scrum, it just felt like the game will always have ebbs and flows of momentum but that we got on top of those most of the time and took our chances," said Rob Herring after the game.