Dynamic Furlong eager to nail down starting spot
Joe Schmidt was an interested observer at the RDS on Friday night, and when he forensically reviews the tape of Leinster's impressive performance against Ospreys, he'll note Tadhg Furlong's contribution.
The Wexford native was prominent throughout the bonus -win, but scrum coach John Fogarty yesterday revealed the level of involvement he had beyond his normal routine of scrums, lineouts and the odd ball-carry.
Over the course of his 65 minutes, the tighthead prop was involved in 35 rucks and his efforts were deemed effective in 93pc of those. Traditionally, the tighthead is asked to do his primary job and everything else is treated as a bonus, but Furlong (pictured) is setting a new standard for those vying for the Ireland No 3 jersey this November.
In June, he started the second Test against South Africa at Ellis Park and acquitted himself well against Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira. By the time Ireland collapsed, he had left the fray.
Mike Ross was back for the series decider, but Furlong got half an hour in Port Elizabeth - a further sign of the trust he has earned.
In November, Ireland will take on the most dynamic team in world rugby twice and Schmidt must choose between his rock-solid veteran or the dynamic youngster.
"It drives you on," Furlong said of the tour. "When you get a taste of that sort of play week in, week out, you want to make it a habit.
"So over the off-season you reflect, you take your time off and you set your goals, you really try to drive on and not stagnate.
"We went into the Irish squad a few weeks ago and we got some things to work towards individually, stuff about your game that you had to improve and you have that there in your head, trying to get better all the time.
"But Chicago, it really isn't (on my mind). . . if you look at our fixture list it's big game after big game; and with the way we went in Europe last year and the disappointment of the league, we're really trying to grow something here in Leinster."
For all that there's a rivalry between them, Furlong says he and Ross get on well.
"We're good friends," Furlong said. "I keep slagging him, like, 'Rossy, you're born in the '70s. . . I'm '92 - you're two generations older!'. He's like, 'You're obsessed with my age Tadhg, I'm fine!'.
"To be fair, Rossy's playing some really good rugby at the minute, and some of the best stuff is around the field, the contribution he's making is really good.
"Rossy has done it for so long, he's so consistent in his scrum and coaches have that trust in him, they know he's always going to do a job because he's done it on the big stage so many times."
Furlong's primary focus this week is on Leinster's visit to Cardiff Blues on Saturday and Leo Cullen can call on Fergus McFadden and Ian Nagle for the trip.
Meanwhile, Sean O'Brien and Robbie Henshaw stepped up their recovery by returning to the pitch yesterday and are nearing a return.