Tuesday 24 April 2018

Lions hero Furlong admits he still has so much to learn

Leinster disappointment lingers for prop idol.

Tadhg Furlong seems like someone who has already achieved much in his short professional life but he has nothing tangible to show for it. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Tadhg Furlong seems like someone who has already achieved much in his short professional life but he has nothing tangible to show for it. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Sportspeople are forever living in the moment, where the past is a foreign country and the future an unknown territory.

Any medals and previous accomplishments, along with regrets, they delight in telling us, are secreted deep in a drawer, all to be unfurled only when they have finished their career.

But what do you do when you have no medals to quietly pack away?

Tadhg Furlong seems like someone who has already achieved much in his short professional life but, for all the notable scalps, in green and red against the All Blacks, he has nothing tangible to show for it.

At least, not in the form of a medal that he could stage on the mantelpiece or merely fling into a welcoming empty drawer.

Even though he is just 24, he knows that after 67 appearances for Leinster, 16 for Ireland, and three for the Lions, he has won nothing yet.

As good as he is now, that realisation motivates him to produce even more from himself.

"I am the sort of person anyway that I probably moan or am never happy with stuff," he says with the typical bluntness of a player who always seeks the most direct route on the field.

"A lot of times, you have to prove to yourself or look for areas in the game where you can improve on.

"You look at the video and you can say, 'I did that much better this week than I did last week'.

"I am still very young for a tighthead prop. I still have to lot to learn in the game. Those sorts of things keep you motivated.

"I still haven't won anything. That is one of the things that motivate you to keep performing.

"It was my third game of the season, so I'm probably not up to full match fitness or sharpness. The squad hasn't had a massive amount of time together.

"This is only our fourth week deep really. We're getting there little by little. You can see those gradual improvements in the games we've played."

He does, at least, concede that the summer tour galvanised his competitive spirit, as he aligned himself with his peers before proving himself to Warren Gatland that he was the best option to fill the number three shirt. "You are probably more confident or more comfortable going into big games. You have been there. You have that memory bank you can draw on.

"Confidence-wise, the summer probably helps you. It gives you standards of yourself in those big games where you can keep aiming for."

The standards within his own province will not allow complacency to creep in.

"The strength in depth at tighthead this year is really good.

"Michael Bent is playing out of his skin, scrummaging really well and Ian Porter is pushing hard as well. Those lads keep you on your toes as well."

No more than Leinster, for whom the pressure to drive on never relents.

After disposing, for now, the Montpellier threat, they now face a Glasgow side who must win or avoid European elimination from this most unforgiving of pools, even though we have just reached Round Two.

"If you look at last season, we were so close, but, yet, so far away," says Furlong of last season's defeated semi-finalists in both domestic and European fare.

"There was a massive sense of disappointment in the group because of that and a will to succeed. That is in the grand scheme of things that you have to do, win your games week to week.

"Some of the standards of the teams out there are impressive. I watched Saracens last weekend and they seem so composed in everything they do.

"In all their attacks, they have perfect shape all the time. It's something we are aiming for, to get our standards really high and be hopeful to compete at the right end of the season.

"To do that, you have to go week by week and it is a huge test for us at the weekend."

Glasgow, who welcome back Furlong's Lions colleague Stuart Hogg, one of the most entertaining stars of the sport, will be seething after ceding a winning position against Exeter last weekend.

"You don't think of dumping Glasgow out," he demurs. "You think of trying to get a win yourself. It is massively important for us to try and keep building momentum.

"We haven't won there in - what is it? - six years, something crazy like that. It is a massive, massive challenge for us."

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