Tadhg Beirne in Ireland training (Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan)
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Eight months ago Tadhg Beirne was rehabbing a broken ankle and watching the Six Nations from his couch.
Now he's primed for action as Ireland chase a bonus point win to stay in the title hunt on Saturday.
With Iain Henderson suspended, Andy Farrell has turned to the versatile Munster breakdown specialist to partner James Lowe in the second row.
Beirne said: "It's completely bizarre really, it sums up 2020 doesn't it? It's a completely strange year and anything can happen.
"It's great to be back in, it's been a long road to get back here from where I was before Christmas.
"Back in February I'm shouting for Ireland from my sofa, probably still on crutches, got a boot on – and then eight or nine months later, have an opportunity to see out the season with them in the Six Nations.
"Look it's been a weird one, it's great for me, it's an unbelievable opportunity for me on Saturday.
"Unfortunately I know Hendy has a ban at the minute so it also leaves the door open for me to put my hand up.
"I just want to go out there and put in a good performance and contribute to a successful day out for Irish rugby.
Munster's Tadhg Beirne
(Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan)
Beirne admits that it was a concern to him that he would miss out again. He returned for the last day of the regular PRO14 season in August but wasn't sure if he had done enough to convince Farrell.
"I didn’t have much time to showcase my ability over the last few weeks in terms of Munster," the 28-year-old said.
"I didn’t know if that was going to be enough after missing all of January, February. Luckily enough for me it was.
"It's always lingering there in your mind – have I done enough? Can I do enough to get into the set up?
"To be back, to be selected even in the squad was a big moment for me and, then, to get an opportunity to not only be involved in the 23 but to start against Italy in the Six Nations is huge for me."
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Beirne suffered the injury in a Champions Cup game in December and so while he has worked with Farrell before, this is his first time in an Ireland camp with the Englishman in the hot-seat.
"Faz has his own way of playing, he has his own culture and his own way of doing things, which is different," said the Kildare man.
"That’s something everyone gets used to and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves in here and enjoying this new environment that he’s creating.
“It’s incredibly intense at times, when it needs to be intense and everyone’s working for each other and bouncing off each other in here, which has been great.
"Thus far I’ve enjoyed it and long may it continue.”
Beirne is looking forward to reuniting with Ryan in battle, having first done so when they both played for Lansdowne before either of their pro careers took off.
From that moment on, Beirne knew Leinster and Ireland had a serious player on their hands.
"I think it was against Clontarf, in The Bull Ring as they call it," he recalled.
"I'd heard a lot about him from the Leinster sub-Academy.
"He was a bit of a prodigy, he's certainly come out and proved his worth over the last few years and continued to do so.
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"James is a phenomenal player, he's a leader as well, you can see that around the lineout.
"He's been taking the reins in terms of calling. The development of him has been incredible.
"What he has achieved in his short career…I had a chat with him the other day and he said he's still only 24. I was a bit shocked!
"But I've a great relationship with him, I get on really well with him. If anything I'm probably learning from him even though I'm his senior – but that's just the type of player he is!
“He is probably one of the best second rows in the world. As I said, I learned from him, not the other way around, for sure".