Beirne's big outing in Chicago leaves Ireland spoiled in second row
FIVE INTO TWO. The dilemma for Joe Schmidt in the second row over the next three weekends.
James Ryan, Iain Henderson, Devin Toner, Tadhg Beirne and Quinn Roux â" seriously strong options for the Ireland head coach.
Beirneâs brilliance in Chicago last weekend, when he scored two tries against Italy, makes it an even tougher decision.
Beirne stretches out for his first try against Italy.
There was much more to Beirneâs game than the scores at Soldier Field, including an important lineout steal, some sharp tackling and his superb ball-carrying off nine.
While there werenât any of his trademark turnovers, it was a continuation of the form he has shown for Munster in the Heineken Champions Cup so far t his season, as well as the performances that were commonplace in his time at Scarlets before his move back to Ireland.
The 26-year-old remains the least experienced of Schmidtâs second row options at Test level, but he is among the most exciting.
That said, the proven quality of Toner, Henderson and Ryan on big occasions for Ireland is certainly attractive ahead of the Argentina and All Blacks Tests.
Connacht man Roux delivered an excellent performance against Italy too and deserves to be included in the debate.
Beirneâs dynamism and ability to also cover the blindside flank means he has the potential to act as an impact replacement for Ireland.
Whatever role he is to play in the coming weeks, Beirne can reflect on his first start for Ireland last weekend with some pride.
âI was a little bit nervous going out there,â said Beirne. âBut we started well and to get over for the first try was nice on my behalf.
Beirne carried superbly for Ireland.
âItâs one of those where Jacob [Stockdale] set the tone by making that linebreak and we fed off that. Unfortunately, for the rest of the half, we didnât really kick on as we would have liked to.
âWe werenât as accurate as we would have wanted and the pace of the game wasnât where we wanted it to be.â
Despite those frustrations, Beirne was pleased with Irelandâs lineout work, although he feels their mauling can improve for the Pumas Test.
âI thought the lineout went reasonably well,â said Beirne. âI donât think we lost one. We might have been a bit better in our drives and weâll definitely look at that.
âDefensively I think we nicked one and put them off a few so weâre pretty happy with the lineout overall, but definitely in terms of our mauling, we have a few areas where we can get better.â
While Beirne and the forward pack did an excellent job in Chicago, the star of the show was undoubtedly Jordan Larmour â" another man who was making his first start for Ireland.
The Leinster man scored three tries from fullback and the wing, and Beirne was as impressed as everyone else.
âWe were saying that if the Chicago Bears lad is looking at him, he might be poaching him!â said Beirne.
Larmour was the star of the show in Chicago.
âJordan is a bit of a freak when it comes to his speed and his agility and everything he brings, and that last try just showed it. He just picks them off like itâs nothing and heâs a credit.
âHeâs just a natural talent, isnât he? Heâs a gifted player, thatâs what youâd call him, and heâs still not the finished article because heâs 21 and heâll keep learning. So imagine how good heâll be by the time heâs 27, 28.â
With Larmour now strongly in contention to wear Irelandâs 15 shirt for the clash with Argentina on Saturday, as Rob Kearney remains a doubt, Schmidt will be hoping the 21-year-old can perform similar feats in Dublin.
As for the second row, the Ireland boss can take comfort in the fact that whatever way his selection goes in the coming weekends, he will have quality operators in the locking positions.
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