Player of the Championship nominee: Tadhg Beirne

Beirne 16×9
Tadhg Beirne went into the 2021 Guinness Six Nations doubting whether he’d even make Ireland’s first matchday squad.

Tadhg Beirne went into the 2021 Guinness Six Nations doubting whether he’d even make Ireland’s first matchday squad.

Five matches and five big performances later, and there’s no questioning just how big a role the versatile forward played for Andy Farrell.

“My goal was just to make the squad and once I made the squad it was very much just to break into the 23,” said the 29 year-old.

“To be honest when I went in, I thought there was a good chance I’d be the 24th man for the first few games with Henderson back fit, James Ryan there and Quinn Roux playing so for me it was about going in there and trying to break into the 23.

“Unfortunately for Quinn he had to step away because he got injured and then to my surprise I got the nod to start against Wales.

“It was a massive opportunity for me to just put my hand up and try put in a performance.

“Thankfully I put in a performance good enough to retain my position and I continued to do so throughout the campaign which was obviously a massive positive from a personal point of view.”

Vote for your 2021 Guinness Six Nations Player of the Championship here!

Knowing the opportunity was there was one thing but going and taking it was something else altogether for Beirne.

A superb opening-round performance against Wales far from dented his credentials, scoring Ireland’s first try of the match and Championship.

Robbie Henshaw made a half-break through the defensive line, offloaded to Josh van der Flier who was stopped inches short before Beirne picked up and stretched out to dot down.

But that wasn’t to be the end of his try-scoring antics, nor the impressive performances for his country.

Packing down in the second row against France, it wasn’t to be for Beirne and Ireland but his hold in the 2021 Championship was just getting started.

Then came a switch to blindside flanker and a trip to Rome to face Italy, repaying the faith shown in him with a Guinness Six Nations Player of the Match performance.

Relentless around the park for 80 minutes, he made 31 metres on just five carries, completed ten tackles without missing any and also won a turnover.

But the back-rower additionally did a lot of the dirty work as he hit attacking and defensive rucks with regularity to help provide the quick ball that allowed his side to cross for six tries.

With confidence now flowing – both as a team and individual – it was all systems go for Beirne thereon as Ireland rounded out the Championship with three successive wins.

And once again the Munsterman was front and centre of what his country did well in the 27-24 victory over Scotland.

A physical start to the second half, full of crunching hits, eventually saw Ireland earn a five-metre lineout, go through the phases and Beirne managed to burrow over the line from close range.

He used his considerable strength to score the all-important try but it was his all-round play that really contributed to him earning back-to-back Guinness Six Nations Player of the Match gongs.

He was a relentless diesel engine around the park – hitting rucks with regularity and completing all six of his attempted tackles while also contributing in attack with six tough carries for 29 metres and completing two offloads.

Efforts were rewarded as Johnny Sexton secured the three-point win with a penalty four minutes from time – not that Beirne himself was feeling too relaxed at BT Murrayfield.

“I was in the stands for it but I was just crossing my fingers and hoping the lads could pull it off,” he said.

“Of course, they did. I should never have doubted them. I wasn’t surprised that Johnny pointed to the posts at all.”

Victory over England back in Dublin then brought the curtain down on a job well done for Beirne, as Ireland finished with a flourish.

There was to be no third Player of the Match award but with another 80 minutes under his belt, this was a Guinness Six Nations to remember for Ireland’s joint leading try-scorer.

But tries are just a small footnote into what the forward offers.

The ten turnovers he won was by far and away the most in the Championship, while also ranking in the top five for lineouts won and top ten in carries having played 376 of a possible 400 minutes.

Not bad for a man who didn’t think he’d make the first squad.

Vote for your 2021 Guinness Six Nations Player of the Championship here!