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'He's got three bad games in him now before the shepherd's crook'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Ireland rugby legend Brian O’Driscoll has hailed the recent performances in New Zealand of Tadhg Beirne, reckoning that the lock has now got huge credit in the bank with Andy Farrell ahead of Iain Henderson in the battle to partner James Ryan. The performances of the Irish tight five were integral in their 2-1 series win over the All Blacks and, by the sounds of it, no one was more impressed with the efforts of Beirne than O’Driscoll. 

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The legendary midfielder’s Test career ended in 2014 without ever being a part of an Ireland win over the All Blacks, but the pattern of results between the two countries has since tilted with the Irish winning five of the last eight matches between the teams

Beirne has featured in the last three Ireland successes. However, while he was only a replacement in last November’s win in Dublin, he laid claim to the No4 jersey in the absence of the injured Henderson in New Zealand this month and O’Driscoll believes the lock is now the first choice pick alongside Ryan heading into an Autumn Nations Series featuring games against South Africa, Fiji and Australia.   

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Speaking about Beirne during an interview on Newstalk, the Irish radio station, O’Driscoll said: “It’s a real find that he has gone the circuitous route (from Leinster to Munster via Scarlets) to come back and be a mainstay of this Irish team. Sometimes you just need those performances. 

“There were question marks around is it Henderson starts, is it him? This has blown that out of the water. He has got three bad games in him now before he gets the shepherd’s crook because that was such an excellent performance.

“Coaches do look to big moments when players really need to stand up and deliver. They go back to the well and go, who did it? Henderson has been very good but nothing on that level of performance and so that partnership now is the two boys, (James) Ryan and Tadhg Beirne for a while.”

The turnover ability of Beirne at the breakdown was an especially effective weapon for Ireland against the All Blacks and O’Driscoll believes it is something that future opposition will focus hugely on. “Teams all over the world now will be paying credence to the fact that he is the first guy (at the breakdown), if he wins the ball, if he wins the shoulder, you are not moving him. 

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“It is his ability to get down and not just lock onto the ball because referees now need you to steal the ball, he steals it in no time so his ability to get into that position and then turn it over really quickly before the player fighting on the ground is aware they have even lost it is a real point of difference. 

“There was also his intercept, the timing on the counter ruck was outstanding, very good lineout steals, he was immense, he really was – the best I have ever seen him play for Ireland. He has been very consistent. 

“I always would have worried about him from a physicality point of view. He runs really clever lines and has good footwork. He uses his strengths as best possible but sometimes it is just hard to deal with that huge physicality that he doesn’t really possess, but he was really outstanding and didn’t in any way, shape or form on that side of things look out of place against what was meant to be one of the most ferocious tight fives.”  

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