Four-time Championship winner Graham Rowntree believes the time is right for in-form Ireland forward Tadhg Beirne to make an impact on the Guinness Six Nations.
Beirne is currently under the tutelage of Rowntree at Munster, where the former England prop is the forwards coach, and has put together a string of impressive displays for the province in the Guinness PRO14 in recent weeks.
Just three of the 29-year-old’s 17 Ireland caps to date have come in the Championship but Iain Henderson’s injury has opened up a vacancy in the second row which Beirne could be the man to fill.
He shone in a try-scoring display against Leinster last weekend – a match Munster narrowly lost 13-10 – and Rowntree, a Grand Slam winner with England in 2003, has backed Beirne to translate his displays in a red shirt into the famous green jersey.
“I may be a bit biased in my point of view but I’ve worked with a lot of Test players and he’d certainly be up there,” Rowntree told the42.ie.
“His athleticism is ridiculous but he can also pack a scrum.
“If you think about the amount of scrums and the work that’s required from a second row in a game like last weekend, in terms of maul, scrum, breakdown, he’s doing that and he’s having a massive amount of influence on the game elsewhere as well, so credit to him.”
Ireland start their 2021 Championship campaign with a trip to Cardiff on February 7 as the sides do battle for the first time since Andy Farrell’s side won 32-9 on the opening night of the Autumn Nations Cup in November.
Beirne came off the bench on that occasion but will hope for a starting berth this time around, with his versatility set to again prove a valuable asset – he has been lining up in the second row for Munster of late but has also performed well at flanker for Ireland in the past.
“He can play anywhere in that back five,” Rowntree said.
“I was looking at his stats again from the weekend (against Leinster). He’s making nearly 30 tackles in the game, never mind his lineout game, his rucks, and the pressure he’s putting on the ball at the defensive breakdown.
“He’s very athletic, nice to work with. He’s a quiet character, goes about his business but you always have that assurance with him that he knows exactly what he’s doing and what he wants the pack to be doing at lineout time in particular.”