Tadhg Beirne spent the first two weeks of this tour cramming for exams like a Leaving Cert student but his reward made the effort well worth the hard work and now Ireland’s newest international is hungry for more.
A Test debut off the bench in Melbourne last Saturday in a series-levelling victory against the Wallabies was every bit as magical as Beirne, 26, and his watching family had hoped.
“I’m pretty chuffed, to be honest, getting a win and getting my first cap,” he said. “It’s something special.”
It has been a long time coming after leaving Leinster three summers ago frustrated by his lack of first-team progress.
Two standout seasons with Scarlets put him back in the shop window for Ireland recognition with Munster set to welcome the versatile back-five forward for pre-season later this summer. First, though, Beirne has had to hit the ground running on tour with Ireland.
“It’s something I’ve been working really hard on since I’ve come in and it’s been in some ways a bit of a shock, since I’ve been in camp, just the intensity of it and the level of detail and everything like that.
“Then you come on and the pace of the game is quicker. It’s just another step up and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m just hungry to get out there again now.”
Beirne’s versatility had been called upon from the start, coming on to replace captain Peter O’Mahony at blindside flanker in the 64th minute at AAMI Park last Saturday and then having to move to the second row when Devin Toner was forced off with cramp 12 minutes later.
“I went out as a six when I came on for Pete and then Dev had to go off and I was back in the row.
“It’s something I’ve been working on hard since the two weeks I’ve been in. They told me they see me in both positions so it’s been a lot of time on the computers, a lot of time talking to the likes of Dev, Pete, Quinn (Roux), all those boys, learning off them and them giving me a heads up.
“Even when I went out there I was having little chats with Dev on the way to lineouts just to double check I was getting my role right and stuff like that because it’s obviously pretty nerve-wracking going on for your first cap and you don’t want to get anything wrong, do you?
“So they definitely helped along the way.”
Beirne said getting his first involvement had helped make him feel he had arrived at Test pace. “Your first tackle,” he added.
“Luckily I managed to hold him otherwise I definitely wouldn’t be playing next week. No, look, once I got on the ideal thing is just to sit in and get in the defensive line and maybe get your hands on the ball early. Luckily I didn’t make any mistakes, I don’t think.”
Beirne’s involvement has meant a reunion with head coach Joe Schmidt, who praised his 16-minute debut and the work-rate the Clongowes educated forward had put in. The player in turn lauded Schmidt’s “intensity of detail”.
“I did a year with him in Leinster when I was in the academy and I think from then it’s even another step-up in terms of intensity of detail. It’s just mind-blowing, I’ve found, the level of detail that goes into every single thing.
“Every move, like the phase plays, open play, everything we do, you have to get everything right. You can’t give teams like Australia or any of these top-tier an inch because if you do they’ll punish you. We saw that today, they punished us a few times and we saw that last week, so there’s still plenty of room to improve.
Having been outside the Irish system for two seasons, Beirne has not benefited from the IRFU’s player management programme which limits game-time and manages training loads for its players, which meant the forward came on tour with the most game-time of any of the squad, a whopping 2286 minutes with the Scarlets on their run to the Champions Cup semi-finals and PRO14 final.
“I’m just looking forward to playing (again). I’ve been with Scarlets and if they’re giving me the option to play or asking me to play, as a player you want to play week in, week out. The body’s had a few bumps and bruises along the way but luckily I haven’t picked up any serious niggles and touch wood it stays like that.
“Look, there’s one more game left to my season, potentially if I get picked, and then I have a break so the body can hang on for one more 80 minutes if I get that opportunity.”
No-one is more pleased than his former comrades in Llanelli and Beirne is grateful for that and the two seasons that have transformed his career under Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac.
“More or less the majority of them texted me (with good luck messages). And to be fair, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for those boys. I’ve been very lucky the past two years to be surrounded by such good players, such good coaches and at such a good club. It’s a credit to Scarlets and I’ve got to thank them for this special day for me.
“I got messages from all of them, the coaches, physios, doctors, everyone. Yeah, got a lot messages.”
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