Sunday 11 December 2016

'You get kind of embarrassed': Tadhg Furlong gives brilliantly humble response when asked about his Lions prospects

Published 28/11/2016 | 15:34

Tadhg Furlong has admitted feeling "embarrassed" by being tipped to win selection for next summer's British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand.

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Ireland completed a 2016 clean sweep over the southern hemisphere's big three with Saturday's 27-24 victory over Australia in Dublin.

The increasingly-influential Furlong has catapulted himself to the front of the queue for the Lions' number three shirt next summer with a string of fine November performances.

But the 24-year-old Wexford native has insisted he feels a "big, big step" away from the Lions picture.

"It's kind of daunting in a way, to be honest with you," said prop Furlong of links to next summer's Lions squad.

"Because you know in your own head that 'jeez, my scrum wasn't great there' or 'my entry wasn't great here, and if I do this against a really great scrummaging pack, I'm going to be torn apart here'.

"That is your thought process. And with people throwing that out, you get kind of embarrassed.

"The Lions is synonymous with such a big brand and so many great players have played there. Do I see myself there at the minute? No.

"I think I have a long journey to go and, as I said, I've only started four games for Ireland, two Heineken Cup games for Leinster and it is a big, big step to be making those shouts."

England's Dan Cole, Wales' Samson Lee and Scotland's WP Nel will all be in the mix for Lions selection, but Furlong has emerged as the standout tighthead across Ireland's impressive autumn series.

Furlong's bullish ball-carrying, his unyielding drive and smart set-piece work have all helped Ireland move their tight game on still further under boss Joe Schmidt and forwards coach Simon Easterby.

Ireland made history with their first-ever win over New Zealand in their 40-29 triumph at Chicago's Soldier Field.

Schmidt's side had already toppled South Africa 26-20 in Cape Town in June - and on Saturday added the scalp of Australia to complete a stunning southern hemisphere clean sweep inside 12 months.

Ireland are now the first European team to beat the southern hemisphere's big three nations in a calendar year since England in 2003.

Furlong for one is refusing to let himself get carried away - insisting his emergence as Ireland's starting tightead remains in its infancy.

The Leinster star also laid much of the credit for his own progress at the feet of 36-year-old provincial team-mate and veteran of 61 Ireland caps Mike Ross.

"Mike Ross has been a stalwart for years and years and he's delivered so well for Ireland that no other tighthead has really got a look-in, in terms of his consistency in the scrum and general soundness around the pitch," said Furlong.

"To come up under him, I've worked with Mike a long time through the academy at Leinster.

"He's been a really good mentor for me I suppose to step out of his shadow and get a few games has been really good for me.

"Look, you can't get carried away either. You're only one bad scrummaging performance from being torn apart, so there's definitely work I can do in that area.

"It's something that I'll reflect on these three games I've played in. Breaking it down now over the next week, I'll put plans together to try and improve in that area."

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