Tadhg Beirne on the Wayne Pivac request that helped change his career
"Like, Llanelli, I didn't even know how to pronounce it. I got picked up by one of them and I asked them long it was to Lan-elly!"
Tadhg Beirne rolled the dice, back in 2016, and took the road far less travelled. It was a risk, but one that paid off with massive dividends.
In early 2016, as he was waiting outside the Leinster changing room at The RDS, rugby agent Abe Kerr struck up a conversation with Beirne. The Kildare native was in the Leinster senior squad and had made four senior appearances but he was not togged out that night.
Beirne was a promising academy prospect and played nine time for Ireland U20s but a pelvic injury had slowed his process in a senior Leinster squad of domestic and European winners. A fortnight after Beirne and Kerr had spoken, Leinster head coach Leo Cullen informed the forward that 'I’d probably be best starting to look elsewhere'.
Now well established with Munster and Ireland, Beirne spoke with Barry Murphy and Andrew Trimble, on the latest episode of Baz & Andrew's House of Rugby, about salvaging his career in Wales, and how good timing played a crucial role.
Using his contacts over in the UK, Kerr discovered that Wayne Pivac was on the look-out for forwards that were more mobile and had good ball-handling abilities. At 6-foot-6, Beirne is not the tallest of locks but he does pride himself at being effective in the loose.
He put a business degree on hold, packed his bags and headed to Llanelli for what he considered would be his last chance at being a professional rugby player. His short-term goals were modest - holding tackle shields in training, getting a few reps in and hopefully getting a few games to prove what he could do.
"For the first three games I was involved in," Beirne recalls, "we lost all three of them.
"I was only involved on the bench as some of the international lads weren’t back. I didn’t play again until the Anglo Welsh Cup, and I played two games back-to-back.
"The next game against Leinster in the PRO12 and I wasn’t supposed to be on the bench. I was supposed to be playing semi-pro that week and I called into Wayne Pivac’s office. I asked him could I not play semi-pro because my parents were coming over. I wanted to bring them to the game.
"He came back to me about 20 minutes later, saying they decided to put me on the bench. I don’t know if they decided to do that because my parents were coming over, or what."
"I’ve been dropped I don’t know how many times," Trimble commented, "but I’ve never considered the excuse - ‘Can I please play because my mum and dad are coming’. That is outside of the box!"
Pivac later told Beirne that was not the reason he made the bench and that he had done well in the Anglo-Welsh Cup. He didn't mind, either way, and came off the bench to help his new side beat Leinster, his old one, 38-29.
"I got another two pieces of luck, after that," Beirne continued.
"It was for the Zebre game, Jake Ball was having a kid and he couldn’t come, so I ended up starting that game. And then the following game was against Toulon, over in Toulon. And, again, Aaron Shingler, that week, ended up having the kid that weekend and I ended up starting that game. And, after that, I pretty much started all of them. So, there was a lot of luck involved as well.
"Overall, I absolutely loved it there. It couldn’t have suited me any better. The environment, it was different to Leinster, it was completely different to Munster, but it was really enjoyable. But, yeah, I definitely wouldn’t change it."
Trimble, once again, was right in there. "It sounds like in your autobiography on Scarlets," he remarked, "that period there’s going to be a chapter on teammates’ wives getting pregnant!"
Beirne's abilities at the breakdown and as a passing, attacking forward were key in Scarlets going all the way to the Guinness PRO12 title that season. This was certainly a case of the end-of-season awards being named prematurely. Beirne was man-of-the-match in the semi-final victory over Leinster, back at The RDS again, while he and Shingler were the Welsh side's two best players in a comfortable final victory over Munster.
The winners' medal was all that mattered to Beirne in 2017 but he did did a personal accolade the following season as he was named PRO14 Players' Player of the Season. He returned to Ireland, that summer, and joined Munster before making his Ireland debut against the USA in November 2018.
For Tadhg Beirne, life could have turned out a lot differently had he not backed himself to leave his family and friends behind and give it one last try. That faith, and teammates' partners giving birth, gave him a second chance that he most definitely grasped.
WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH TADHG BEIRNE HERE:
SUBSCRIBE TO BAZ & ANDREW'S HOUSE OF RUGBY: https://playpodca.st/house-of-rugby-ie
Baz and Andrew are joined in the House of Rugby by Munster and Ireland star Tadhg Beirne. They talk injury comebacks, bold moves and Normal People. Ulster and Ireland scrumhalf John Cooney interviewed, and reviewing Munster's 2000 European Cup semi win over Toulouse.