TADHG BEIRNE’S STRONG return from injury had put him back in the selection frame for Ireland’s Six Nations clash against France, but the Munster second row must wait for his first championship appearance.

Beirne missed the opening rounds of Ireland’s campaign due to a knee injury sustained in Munster’s Champions Cup victory over Exeter Chiefs at the end of January, but has made a strong comeback in recent weeks.

Beirne in training at Carton House. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

His performance against Ospreys a fortnight ago thrust him firmly back in Joe Schmidt’s thoughts and Beirne was in contention for this weekend, but after reporting ‘soreness’ in training during the week, will not be involved.

Schmidt has instead turned to James Ryan and Iain Henderson as his starting second row pairing, with Connacht’s Ultan Dillane rewarded for an excellent showing against Italy last time out with a place on the bench. 

The Ireland head coach hopes a weekend off will put 27-year-old Beirne in a good position to hit the ground running at the start of next week, ahead of the final championship outing against Wales in Cardiff.

“The second row, as tempted as we were with Tadhg Beirne, he’s been a little bit sore this week as he’s still coming back after injury,” Schmidt said at Carton House this afternoon.

“He’s just a bit sore. He was in the mix but he’s going to get the weekend off and he’ll come back in fresh to train next week and again, we’ll make some decisions next week.”

Beirne, who made his Ireland debut in Australia last summer, impressed during the November Tests against Italy and USA but Dillane’s form reduced the need for Schmidt to promote the Munster lock straight back into his matchday 23.

Schmidt has made seven changes to his starting XV for Sunday’s round four clash against Jacques Brunel’s side at the Aviva Stadium, with Ryan and Henderson — who start together in green for the sixth time — among those returning to the side.

Garry Ringrose and CJ Stander have also returned to fitness to boost Ireland as they bid to finish the championship on a high, while captain Rory Best and Cian Healy are restored after being rested in Rome last time out.

“It was about giving a bit more opportunity,” Schmidt continued.

Dillane is set to win his 14th cap. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

“It’s great have CJ back in there. James Ryan, Rory Best, those guys who have been rested from the last game. Jack Conan was initially due to start against Scotland so we wanted to give him an opportunity to get his foot back in the door and demonstrate what he can do off the bench and to spread the opportunities again at hooker and prop. 

“Ultan Dillane has played really well for us. His tackle count was very high against Italy, the number of positive involvements he was involved in were really good as well so we wanted to reward that performance.

“We have had some others in the squad because we’re trying to give opportunities. Ross Byrne has slotted straight back in and done a really good job. Rob Herring has been in and Kieran Marmion has been in as well. They all come into the reckoning potentially next week as well.”

As for Sean O’Brien, who has lost his place in the squad at the expense of Leinster team-mate Josh van der Flier, Schmidt added: “Josh has had less time than Sean and hasn’t let us down. He started last year against the French and got that injury so this is a good opportunity for him.

“We were always going to try and spread the load across this Six Nations which was a slightly different brief in this competition.” 

Andy Dunne joins Murray Kinsella and Ryan Bailey to discuss Joe Schmidt’s undroppables and how France might attack Ireland’s predictability in The42 Rugby Weekly.

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