Monday 18 December 2017

Furlong and Moore gear up for mouthwatering scrum contest

Moore: A point to prove. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Moore: A point to prove. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

When Marty Moore set sail for pastures new, he described his decision to join Wasps as "pretty clear-cut" but yet the eyebrows that were raised all around the country suggested that not everyone agreed.

Nine days before Moore announced his move to England, Tadhg Furlong, along with five other youngsters, made their first European starts for Leinster in what was a clear nod to the future.

Moore was named on the bench that afternoon for the dead rubber against Bath but few would have predicted that a mere 14 months later, he would be going up against Furlong in a Champions Cup quarter-final.

As Ireland can testify to, quality tighthead props don't come around all that often - see the utter reliance on John Hayes and latterly Mike Ross - but the landscape looks a lot different nowadays.

Furlong is in firm control of the number three jersey while Finlay Bealham came on to good effect in the famous win over New Zealand in Chicago but has since been usurped by John Ryan who is having a fine season with Munster.

It all means that Ireland haven't felt the loss of Moore as badly as some would have guaranteed but over the pond, the 26-year-old has been enhancing his reputation.

Moore is highly unlikely to add to the 10 international caps that he has already won unless he returns to these shores or barring a serious injury crisis.

Make no mistake about it, Moore has a point to prove at the Aviva on Saturday and while he won't directly scrum down against Furlong, if he can get one over on Jack McGrath and Cian Healy, it will remind everyone in Ireland of his undoubted quality.

"It's more sort of the opposition loosehead that you're staring down his face in the scrum," Furlong admitted when asked if he had been keeping an eye on Moore's progress.

"You know how the scrum is going but you don't know what he looks like, what shape he has. Around the pitch he's the same as any other player really. In the lineout you don't notice him."

Moore will be looking to ensure that Furlong does indeed notice him, especially after watching his former team-mate's reputation soar since he left Leinster.

While the grass isn't always greener, Moore has been a revelation since joining Wasps and is a major reason why they are flying high at the top of the Premiership and why they arrive in Dublin with realistic ambitions of repeating the two wins that they managed over Leinster last season.

"I think a lot of young players have a lot more experience," Furlong said, including himself in that assessment.

"I think a lot of players are after pushing on and starting to play really well. There are a lot of those young players in that category.

"I think our phase play in attack, our own structure, you could say, is after improving. Fitness levels are gone up right across the board. Our defence is after coming on leaps and bounds as well, and it all sort of ties in to a really good feeling around the place and a bounce in the training sessions."

Moore has kept in regular contact with his old mates and only recently was back in Dublin and met up with Leinster's front-row union for dinner.

There is no doubt that the IRFU wanted Moore to remain in Ireland - if not at Leinster, then at least with another province.

And while there might not be any bad blood between both parties, the stage is set for Moore to make a real statement at a stadium that he will want to return to in a green jersey.

Irish Independent

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