Saturday 21 September 2019

Birthday boy Furlong keeping celebrations low-key as he prepares for fierce battle

Furlong: Fifth Test against All Blacks. Photo: Sportsfile
Furlong: Fifth Test against All Blacks. Photo: Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Tadhg Furlong kept his birthday celebrations low-key yesterday, there is serious business to attend to.

He turned 26, still so young for a tighthead prop and yet on Saturday he will face New Zealand for the fifth time in his career.

His record of two wins, two defeats and a draw is perhaps as good as anyone's. Performing against the best team in the world so frequently is part of the reason the Campile colossus is so respected.

The mystique, he says, has faded and been replaced by hard facts. This is one of those cases where reality is tougher than the image New Zealand portray.

Furlong, however, knows just what it takes to beat the men in black and he believes that if Ireland get their performance right on Saturday, a first home win over the world champions is within their reach,

"From the first time I would have played them absolutely, because I suppose they have a mystique about them, an aura," he said.

"When you're looking from the outside, lads talk about playing against the All Blacks but you don't really understand what it's like until they're in there.

"I suppose now there's probably a greater understanding of what it's like to play against them and what's required to try to be successful.

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"I don't think you can expect to win any game without working unbelievably hard. It's probably a massive part of it, where you need to work unbelievably hard, and the other side of that is just mentally being on it at all times because it's easy to say, but when you're under fatigue and stuff like that, it's incredibly hard. But because they have so many dangerous runners, they can create something out of nothing.

"They get in behind you and how many times do you see them then scoring a try? So I think you have to work unbelievably hard, be physical and just be mentally on at all times.

"All the games under Joe - I didn't play in the first one - they've been close-run games and I suppose you just have to be on point when you play them."

Two years ago, having lost to Ireland in Chicago, the All Blacks brought fire and fury to the rematch in Dublin.

Furlong concedes that his team was "outmuscled" that day, but the team know what's coming this time around.

"It's hard, probably just got that bit outmuscled," he said of the 21-9 loss.

"I know we lost some players and there was a bit of a makeshift back line going on towards the middle to end of the second half.

"It was a close game, they got that try to probably stretch it out a small bit in the end but it's not something we've talked about all this week. The game in Chicago is not something we're really talked about. We haven't watched any clips of it massively at all, and I think the over-riding memory is the physicality of that game back in Dublin.

"But your over-riding memory of it is just the physicality. I'm terrible at looking back at games and then trying to pick out moments. I'm useless at that."

As for yesterday's celebrations, well Furlong wasn't exactly planning to push the boat out when he faced the media on Tuesday.

"Very little," he said when asked if he's any plans. "I actually have lads coming to install a bit of home security for me tomorrow, so I think I have to let them in and I think that's about it.

"I might be meeting up with one of the lads for lunch but I've nothing planned.

"It's Rhys Ruddock's birthday today and he got a massive cake brought out for him there," he said. "So I hope they have a sneaky cake for me tomorrow. I mightn't eat it now, obviously, but if they brought me a Black Forest from that kitchen, I'd be incredibly happy."

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