Saturday 29 April 2017

Furlong's attitude steers miles clear of Lions talk

Tadhg Furlong has only started four games for Ireland but is tipped for the Lions tour. Photo: Sportsfile
Tadhg Furlong has only started four games for Ireland but is tipped for the Lions tour. Photo: Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

We all remember the 'cigire' from our schooldays.

Our childish, defiant glee as our autocratic teachers were, for once, subsumed with absolute dread at the sweeping arrival of another, imperious inspector of ability. We were amused by their fretful fidgeting with the window blinds in trepidation ahead of the inspector's call.

Warren Gatland's arrival at Camp Joe won't have had a similar effect on the Irish head teacher; instead, the pupils might feel an extra frisson of tension. For they will be the ones under the microscope.

We recall a similar visit at this stage four years ago when senior, mature players such as Jonathan Sexton were raising their metaphorical hemline in his direction in outlandish efforts at flattery.

Oration

Even Peter O'Mahony delivered a pre-match oration with more atypical animation than normal.

However, ask Tadhg Furlong, already name-checked by Gatland as one to watch for the summer, and he immediately pushes the thought to one side, even as he indulges in the traditional suit-fitting and obligatory Lions' mugshots.

He has enough to be going on with getting ready for this week, never mind this summer.

"Not at all," he says when asked has the presence of Gatland piqued his interest. "When you have weeks like this, it is a big enough occasion in itself.

"There is so much on your mind, so many things to get right. You don't have time to think about anything else really.

"You have to have your body right, your details right leading into the match. Tuesday tends to be a huge work day for the squad. There is the scrummaging session, 20-25 minutes of units between lineouts and mauls and scrums.

"It is a big day for a front-rower and a pack anyway and a big defensive day for us. Whether that was there or not, Tuesday ramps up the preparation in the week.

"You tip away, try to get the most out of the session as money in the bank."

Such has been his mammoth impression it is easy to forget he is a relative novice in the arena.

He has only started four games in 11 Tests spanning 18 months but, after his two predecessors, John Hayes and Mike Ross, occupied the same jersey almost uninterrupted since the beginning of the millennium, one senses his will be a long innings, too. Patience is a virtue, particularly in a position where ongoing maturity adds increasing value.

"I took a lot of confidence from the South Africa tour," he admits. "When you are coming in from the outside, you might come in for a game or two or just be training.

"To go from that to playing consistently, three games on the bounce, you learn a lot about yourself, preparation, looking after your body.

"In the grand scheme of things, I still have a lot to learn. That is natural for a 24-year-old tighthead.

"It is dangerous if you start thinking you have this whole thing figured out because I definitely don't."

The only certainty is that he is getting there.

Irish Independent

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