Friday 19 January 2018

Mike Ross backs Tadhg Furlong to handle Twickenham baptism of fire

Tadhg Furlong, left, has been backed to cope with switching from tighthead to loosehead prop for Ireland
Tadhg Furlong, left, has been backed to cope with switching from tighthead to loosehead prop for Ireland

Tadhg Furlong can handle his "baptism of fire" at loosehead prop against England at Twickenham on Saturday, according to Mike Ross.

Test rookie Furlong leapfrogged Michael Bent and into Ireland's final 31-man World Cup squad this week, just days after making his international debut against Wales.

Leinster's 22-year-old tighthead prop will provide back-up to the experienced Ross and his understudy Nathan White - but will also offer cover on the other side of the scrum.

With scant tangible experience at loosehead, the Wexford native has been working hard to "write with your left hand", as 35-year-old Ross dubbed the positional switch.

"We've been working with him this week and it's a bit of an adjustment," said Ross of Furlong's loosehead challenge.

"I would have always compared it to trying to write with your left hand when you're right-handed.

"He's certainly strong enough to do a more than competent job there.

"You need to be more experienced before you can dominate, but I'd be confident he can do a good job for us.

"It's definitely a baptism of fire I would say."

Ross and his Leinster club-mate Jack McGrath will sandwich Rory Best to form Ireland's starting front-row for Saturday's final World Cup warm-up clash at Twickenham.

Furlong is likely to join the fray with 20 or so minutes to play, and will do so in the loosehead berth, rather than his natural number-three role.

Ross believes Furlong must exploit his general appreciation of all-round scrummaging nuance to make a success of his new task.

"He'll be very conscious," said Ross of what to produce at loosehead that a tighthead would struggle with.

"He'll keep his hips square to make sure he doesn't kick out, because that would give an opportunity for a tighthead to get inside him."

England's scrummaging came in for criticism in their 25-20 defeat to France in Paris on August 22, Stuart Lancaster's men still coming to terms with the absence of abrasive hooker Dylan Hartley.

Ross has warned Ireland not to expect an easy ride against Saturday's hosts however, gearing up for a serious set-piece tussle.

"I don't think so," said Ross when asked if Hartley's absence weakens England.

"Tom Youngs is a very good scrummager in his own right.

"They've Jamie George on the bench and he has been playing bloody well for Saracens.

"He has a big barrel chest on him, and he's strong.

"I thought England were a bit unlucky with the refereeing against France."

Press Association

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