Saturday 25 May 2019

'Cast-offs' back to bite Leinster

Conway and Beirne could haunt Blues

BIG MOVE SOUTH: Munster’s Andrew Conway. Photo: Sportsfile
BIG MOVE SOUTH: Munster’s Andrew Conway. Photo: Sportsfile

It might just be a good time for Andrew Conway and Tadhg Beirne to sit down for a conversation about how they got to the Champions Cup semi-final.

The Dubliner and the Kildare man were all set to take on the rugby world from the comfort of their home province.

It didn't work out that way as Conway made the move to Munster in pursuit of personal gains and Beirne was derailed by injuries that meant Leinster couldn't wait any longer.

In 2009, Blackrock College-educated Conway and Brendan Macken came out of school as pre-ordained certainties for the professional game.

Dynamic duo

The stories seeped out about how the dynamic duo would regularly turn up at senior training and put Ireland internationals on notice with their attacking prowess.

Tadhg Beirne. Photo: Sportsfile
Tadhg Beirne. Photo: Sportsfile

The promise was never fully delivered on and, after four seasons from 2009-to-2013, Conway decided to take the M7 to Limerick with lack of opportunity and injury cited as the reasons.

"My decision to leave Leinster was a funny decision for a lot of people," corrected Conway in an RTÉ interview in November 2017.

"A lot of people thought I had to go to find game-time, but that wasn't really the case.

"I was a bit of a 'Lunster' growing up, with my old fella going to Munster games.

"I just always had a kind of attraction to Munster, it was kind of unexplainable.

"There was no family link there, but there was something in me deep down always had an attraction to Munster.

"I think, as well, you can't be scared to get out of your comfort zone in rugby, or in life.

"Get out there and see what's out there, try and see if you are able to adapt and make it in a different environment than what you're used to."

In his time at Munster, the polished speedster has signed three contracts as his under-rated competitive edge has led to an all-round wing wizard as much at home in the physicality as he is in the finesse.

The combination of talent and character was on show against Toulon where the wing saved Simon Zebo from a schoolboy error with a try-saving tackle on 16 stones Josua Tuisova in the fourth minute.

Then, there came the biggest moment of his career, in claiming Francois Trinh-Duc's clearance above his head with his left foot no more than an inch from the touchline, taking off for the sort of wonder try that unclipped Leinster eight years ago.

This was light years away from a training ground burst and, in an instant, Conway was proclaimed a saviour of Munster for one round, at least.

The night before, The Scarlet Beirne had added a notch to his red belt with numerous stunning interventions as the PRO14 League champions sealed their semi-final spot at home to La Rochelle.

In fact, the back five forward will join Conway at Munster in the summer in his pursuit of an Ireland cap.

Beirne turned down more money with The Scarlets to move back home.

He will do so as the PRO14 League and Champions Cup turnover King and with a nomination, at the very least, for European Player of the Year.

In time, Munster will find out whether they have signed another Robin Copeland or the new and improved Beirne.

Superior athlete

For the Wexford man arrived back from Cardiff Blues in 2014 with a burgeoning reputation as a superior athlete.

He could never quite fulfil his potential in a different system and a different environment.

There is a reasonable theory that Munster did not play as much to his strengths as Cardiff.

The Scarlets and Munster play very different styles. Will Beirne have to make adjustments? Or will Johann van Graan adjust for him?

Beirne could do worse than look at Conway to see how it doesn't have to be one or the other.

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