| 5.4°C Dublin

Tadhg here Fur-a-long time to come

It was difficult to calculate what ultimate benefit could accrue to Leinster out of the disaster at the hands of Munster at Thomond Park on Friday night.

Ian Madigan showed all the signs of not playing out-half. It was neither his fault nor that of his coach, Matt O'Connor.

Injuries have made Madigan serve the cause where he is needed most, not where he most needs.

It takes time to find rhythm as the pivot man. The contrast with Ian Keatley was stark.

Game-time reveals good and bad habits. Consistent game-time hones the good and improves the bad.

The Leinster pass accuracy was inaccurate, stalling the momentum of movement. The errors were strewn across 80 minutes. The battle of the gain-line was lost emphatically.

On closer inspection, however, there was the arrival of 22-year-old tight-head prop Tadhg Furlong as a force with which to be reckoned.

It won't be long before he becomes a legitimate competitor to tangle with Mike Ross and Martin Moore for the role of Leinster's anchorman and, by extension, Ireland.

There is a reason why 35-year-old Mike Ross was rewarded for service rendered with a one-year contract and not the two he badly wanted.

The IRFU's Performance Director David Nucifora stood his ground on Ross's contract because he knows what Joe Schmidt knows.

Leinster will have Martin Moore and Furlong grappling for the Ireland jersey by the summer of 2016 - at the latest.

RISE

Furlong's rise to prominence has been hindered by a succession of unrelated and unusual injuries.

There was the shoulder operation in 2011, a detached nipple in 2012, the lacerated kidney in early 2013 and the whipping out of his appendix in late 2013.

It was in March of this year that Schmidt took time out to mention Ulster's Stuart Olding, Munster's JJ Hanrahan and Furlong as dark horses for the green machine.

Olding won his second Ireland cap against Georgia in November. Hanrahan has been the subject of much transfer discussion in the last week.

And what of Furlong? Leinster coach O'Connor forecasted recently how the 22-year-old needed 20 matches to become match hardened in the most physically demanding position in rugby.

Right on time, the Wexford man produced his best performance against Munster in the PRO12 last Friday night on the evening of his 20th cap for the province.

It was the first time he had completed the full 80 minutes for Leinster.

It wasn't foot perfect. He could not be faulted for being rounded by Keatley in the 20th minute. But, he was partly to blame for Paddy Butler's clean break in the 56th minute.

Other than that, the impact of his performance is right there in the statistics.

Furlong made an astonishing 22 tackles, hit 35 rucks, carried three times, passed three times, scrummaged eight times.

He won a turnover in the shadow of his posts in the 38th minute and still had enough energy left to drive the Leinster scrum forward in the 74th minute against fresh front-rowers Kevin O'Byrne and Eusebio Guinazu.

It is little wonder he was cramping up in the 78th minute.

While there are far greater scrum challenges ahead, Furlong is showing the value of consistent game-time at tight-head.

It is something Madigan could do with at out-half in January.


Privacy