Tadhg Beirne can nail down quarter final start by ripping Samoa up
The Kildare native has been solid for Ireland since making his Test debut, last summer, but we are still waiting for his break-through performance.
Italy, USA, Wales, Wales, Russia. Only five of Tadhg Beirne's 11 Test appearances have been starts and only one - that Six Nations decider against Wales in March - has been in a meaningful fixture.
Beirne made the World Cup squad because of his flexibility - he can play every position from 4 to 8 - but that may also have held him back from starting. The Munster man got his chance against Russia, last Thursday, and took it. Himself, Dave Kilcoyne and Rhys Ruddock were the stand-outs but Beirne is the only one of that starting pack to be kept on against Samoa.
"He's been really solid," said Joe Schmidt after selecting him at No.6. "He's been versatile for us.
"I thought he carried well against Russia, albeit the ball was more and more like a bar of soap as the game went on."
Beirne hit 30 rucks against the Russians and was the first man into the breakdown on 17 of those occasions. 24 of his ruck entries were classed as 'effective' by Opta while both he and Jean Kleyn registered Ireland's only two 'dominant hits' against the same opponents.
Beirne specialises in getting at teams through the breakdown and either poaching ball or slowing it down significantly for the opposition.
The Munster forward, who is selected at blindside to face Samoa, is also a decent option for the Irish lineout while he has won his fair share of lineout steals - for Scarlets, Munster and Ireland - over the past three years. Schmidt commented:
"I think [he has an] ability to put pressure on the ball on the ground. His line-out work has been good, he gives us a little bit more height in the line-out - probably has not quite the speed that Pete has, in getting up in the line-out.
"Defensively, he gets off the line well and he’s trained really well. That’s probably the bit that people don’t see that makes a difference in our eyes in making selections."
Peter O'Mahony started out the World Cup as the man in possession of the No.6 jersey. The Munster captain did well in the role against Scotland [but lasted only 27 minutes] yet struggled to impose himself on Japan and keep in the good books of referee Angus Gardner.
With O'Mahony at openside for the Russia game, Rhys Ruddock got his chance in the No.6 jersey. Saturday at Fukuoka Stadium is Beirne's opportunity.
As they have shown throughout the competition, Samoa can go hard at it for the guts of an hour and they possess backs that can open up a defence out of nowhere. Beirne will be tasked with getting in there and making life difficult for the likes of Jack Lam, Kane Le'aupepe and TJ Ioane.
He must also show he can make an impact going forward. Finishing off scores for the rumbling Scarlets pack and stretching his legs in attack were a couple of the other aspects of Beirne's game that won him the move back to Munster (from Wales) and saw him break into the Ireland squad.
Saturday is the perfect time to show the world what he is capable of.
If he does, and Ireland do their job, there's no reason why he can't retain that jersey when Ireland face the All Blacks or Springboks.
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