Jamie Heaslip and Alan Quinlan both backed the in-form Tadhg Beirne to start for Ireland in the upcoming Six Nations.
Despite being nominated for the Six Nations Player of the Tournament in 2021, and playing in the first two Lions tests against South Africa this summer, Beirne missed out on a starting place spot in Ireland’s win against the All Blacks in November.
While Farrell’s decision may be made easier if Henderson is unavailable for the start of the Six Nations, the second row battle between three top class performers (James Ryan, Iain Henderson, Tadhg Beirne) will none the less be an intriguing side-sory as the tournament progresses.
Heaslip and Quinlan were speaking at the launch of RTÉ and Virgin Media's Six Nations coverage. The former Leinster backrow said:
“It’s a good headache. I think everyone fit I would like to see them start with James Ryan I think, and then Hendy (Iain Henderson) on the bench, and Hendy’s so dynamic he can play second row or back row, it gives you a lot of functionality.
“Listen you have the same problem with Tadhg Beirne the fact that he can play back row or second row is also a blessing and a curse because a coach can sometimes look at you as a utility and put you on the bench for that reason.
“But the form he’s in now, and has been, sorry, for a long time. I’d like to see him get the nod.”
Alan Quinlan echoed much of what Heaslip said regarding the plight of the utility player, but agreed that Beirne couldn’t be left out.
“I think the way Tadhg Beirne is playing its very very difficult to leave him out of the team.
“I agree with Jamie, James Ryan is the starter. I think you start with Tadhg Beirne and it’s up to Iain Henderson to bring an edge and an aggression there.”
Both Jamie Heaslip and Alan Quinlan gave their insights and opinions on Irish rugby in the lead up to the 2022 Six Nations Championship.
With Joey Carbery injured, the inevitable question over who will be Jonny Sexton’s back-up arose, with Quinlan plugging for Connacht’s Jack Carty.
“I think it has to be Jack Carty at this stage because I think his form has been exceptional. Obviously what happened at the World Cup there was a bit of a hangover there and it affected his confidence and ability as well.”
“It’s obviously a really pivotal position and I just think the way he’s played in the last few months has been really really exciting. I think he’s grown his game, looks to have more control in his game, and has his confidence, and that bit of excitement that you need back.”
Heaslip was a little bit more cynical regarding Carty’s chances for Ireland.
“He’s got to take this opportunity. This is a bit of a last chance saloon for him if he gets a chance with Ireland. There’s a lot of other guys sniffing around.”
When asked whether the gap between first and second choice outhalf was close, Heaslip commented that Sexton was “head and shoulders above the rest”, and that “Jonny’s the GOAT. He’s the Tom Brady of the IRFU right now.”
Other players who were talked up were Dan Sheahan, and Caelan Doris, who Heaslip believes will be in for special attention after his performances in November. Quinlan also praised the form of Leinster’s Ross Byrne.
Both men backed France for the Six Nations, citing their home draws against England and Ireland as a major reason.
19 January 2022; RTÉ and Virgin Media Television today announced details of its historic partnership to bring all of the 2022 Six Nations Rugby action, free-to-air for Irish sports fans.?Starting on Friday 4 February with Ireland U-20's taking on France, coverage includes all matches from?Ireland Men's, Women's and U-20s tournaments. In attendance at the announcement are Virgin Media Television managing director Paul Farrell and RTÉ director general Dee Forbes. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile