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Tadhg happy with effort

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Tadhg Furlong, Leinster A. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Tadhg Furlong, Leinster A. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Tadhg Furlong, Leinster A. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

One door opens for one person and another door opens for another. Tadhg Furlong is a man ready to make his mark.

The 21-year-old Wexfordian has had to bide his time in recent months as he has watched his former Academy colleague Martin Moore join Mike Ross in first the Leinster senior squad and last weekend, for the first time, with Ireland.

You might think that Moore's promotion might generate green envious eyes, but Furlong was pleased for his teammate, who made his senior international bow against Scotland last Sunday.

In fact it acted as a further motivational fillip for Furlong as he looks set to make his fourth provincial appearance in Zebre on Sunday afternoon in the embryonic stage of his own career.

"I have had to be patient, but I'm happy with how things have gone this season," Furlong says ahead of Sunday's return to PRO12 action in what will be his second trip to Italy this season.

"Things have probably worked out a bit luckily for me now that Marty has joined Mike in the (Ireland) squad and it's great for Leinster that we're producing internationals.

"Over the last 18 months or so, I have looked up to a number of players who are in a similar boat to myself and someone like Jack (McGrath) is a great role model in that regard as well. He has worked hard, been patient and when his opportunity came, he has taken it.

"It was clear to everyone at Leinster that Marty had the talent to break through. He's an excellent scrummager and he has gone from playing AIL with Lansdowne to starting Heineken Cup games and now benching for Ireland, all in the space of a year. It gives a lot of hope to the younger lads."

By Sunday evening, 50pc of his Leinster appearances could well have come on Italian soil, which is a statistic that might amuse him, but Furlong knows that the time is now for him to make an impression. A wise head on broad young shoulders, he doesn't need to look too far in times of uncertainty.

"I know that we are down a good few bodies this week with so many players away with Ireland, but there are still a good few experienced heads in our squad. Leo (Cullen) is hugely experienced and is a big help in areas like the set-piece and line-outs. He's very thorough and very specific and Jenno (Shane Jennings) also really helps the younger players and is very good at talking to you and giving you pointers in training and during games.

Experience

"Hopefully we could get a few guys back from Ireland camp, but with that blend of youth and experience and internationals like Kev (McLaughlin) and Straussy (Richardt Strauss) to call on, we're not going to make any excuses.

"We have had a few weeks off now and we're ready to go. It's vital that we bring a fresh intensity over to Zebre because they're an improving team, extremely strong, physical and are very proud, especially at home in front of their own crowd."

As the conversation switches to pride, it's clear that Furlong holds great stock on the path that he has made. Having progressed through the Under-18 Clubs (Youths) system through to Leinster Under 20 and the Academy, he is attempting to blaze the same kind of trail which players like Shane Horgan and Seán O'Brien have done.

"I'm very proud to have represented the (Leinster) Youths", he says. "Even though the likes of Shane and Seánie have come up through the club game, I think that we're hopefully going to see a strong generation of Youths players.

"There are more and more players coming through this system to complement the established schools and that's going to make for a stronger Leinster hopefully for years to come.

"I started in the game with New Ross RFC back when I was four years of age and I played there up until the age of 17. I owe anything I achieve (in the game) to that club. The support, friendship and encouragement that I have received from them has been incredible all the way through.

"Obviously Gordon (D'Arcy) has been a brilliant ambassador for Wexford, Leinster and Ireland for so many years, but it's great to see another local man, Robin Copeland, in the Ireland set-up now as well. With Enniscorthy winning the AIL Junior Cup last weekend, rugby in the county is going from strength to strength."

Furlong has the kind of quiet confidence which keeps him focused and grounded. He is the final stages of a Business Studies course in Dublin City University (DCU) and admits it can be a challenge at times balancing his training commitments and his studies.

"We had a week off after the last game, but it wasn't much of a break for me. A few lads managed to get away for some sun, but I had the head down studying for a Christmas exam. So, it wasn't the best week off, but the end is in sight and I'm looking at doing another course.

"In the Academy, there's a huge onus on each of us to make sure we focus on our education. We've all seen examples of players whose careers have been cut short through injury. That's why you have to make every game count. And that's why it's such a privilege to play for Leinster."


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