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Saturday 22 July 2017

Beirne returns as Scarlets' main man

Leinster's Joey Carbery is tackled by Scarlets’ Hadleigh Parkes (front) and Tadhg Beirne during their PRO12 match at the RDS in March
Leinster's Joey Carbery is tackled by Scarlets’ Hadleigh Parkes (front) and Tadhg Beirne during their PRO12 match at the RDS in March

The Scarlets coach Wayne Pivac has been around the rugby world.

The former Fiji national coach knows a good player when he finds one.

Ex-Leinster lock Tadhg Beirne has had to deal with the issue over his size as one which had him seated between the two stools of second row and blindside flanker.

It has been easier to find his flaws than place faith in his strengths. Until now.

For instance, in a remarkable statistic for a man mostly operating from second row, just three men - in Scarlet openside James Davies (27), Leinster's Dan Leavy (27) and Ospreys flanker Ollie Griffiths (21) - have more turnovers in the Guinness PRO12 than his 17 poaches this season.

The 24-year-old Kildare man moved to West Wales last summer to nail down a place in Pivac's plans.

"He's had a massive impact," said the New Zealander of Croatian descent.

"If you said value for money he'd be right up there at the top of the list.

"He came over for an opportunity and he's taken it with both hands.

"It's one of the success stories of our side this year."

The Clongowes Wood College educated Beirne is one of those under-the-radar forwards out of Leinster's Academy.

It does say much about the production line when one deemed surplus to immediate requirements can make a home in a Welsh club's pack which has more than held its own to orchestrate 17 wins from their last 19 in the League.

It was a matter of the right club at the right time.

"His agent was looking and we were in the market for a second row," said Pivac.

"It was pretty much the last few days, for us, of wrapping our squad up.

"We had a look at the footage and did our homework from there.

"I spoke to his coach at Lansdowne, Mike Ruddock, former Welsh coach, and he spoke very highly of him."

This is where Beirne's versatility to play in the middle and back rows became a strength, not a weakness

"He was the type of player we were looking for to cover the second row and six. He does that.

"The skill set for those positions to play the type of game we want to play and he ticked the boxes.

"He may not be the perfect fit for other teams but, for us, the way we play the game, he fits in really well."

There are those who have gone away and have come back to Leinster. Fionn Carr was one, Isa Nacewa another.

If Beirne can continue his development as a 6'6" and 110kg (17st 4lbs) forward, there could be an opening to return to Irish rugby somewhere down the line.

For instance, Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus spoke earlier in the week about Munster's need to replenish their stocks at lock.

Beirne could have left Ireland and simply worked away as a journeyman professional, content to fill the gaps left by others away on international duty.

No doubt, he still hasn't given up on the ambition to make it at the the highest grade.

"Is he big enough for a second row at international level? That may be a question mark," stated Pivac.

"But, certainly at the level he's operating at now, he's doing a very, very good job.

"The fact he can play in more than one position. I think he's an asset for any team."

The rebound in Beirne's embryonic career means he will return to his home province at The RDS next Friday night with a point to prove to those who have stuck with him.

First, there is the small matter of recovering from a bothersome rib injury picked up in The Scarlets' annihilation at home to The Ospreys last Saturday.

"Yeah, it's an interesting one," said his coach.

"Certainly, all the tickets the team get, no doubt will be taken up by his family and friends.

"Whenever we come to Ireland, it seems to be the case. He has a massive following.

"Look, it's going to be a great experience for him.

"When any player goes and plays against your old team, you like to play one of your best games."

You can be sure Beirne will give it everything he has.

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