Tuesday 17 July 2018

Analysis: Tadhg Furlong back to his best as Ireland execute basics to perfection

Tadhg Furlong in action.
Tadhg Furlong in action.
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Back in his home town of Campile, Tadhg Furlong is known as 'The Jukebox' and just when it looked like the hits had run out after a long season, the Wexford town's most famous son found something in reserve to put in another immense performance.

As we have come to expect, Furlong's scrummaging was excellent, but it is the little extras, or not so little in this case, that has firmly cemented his place as the best tighthead in the world.

Giving up 33kg to the Australian pack, and 17 in the front-row, Ireland needed to lay down a marker at scrum time early on. After winning clean ball off their own scrum, Furlong and co went after the Aussie set-piece when in a good position on the 22 just after the 10-minute mark.

The plaudits went to Furlong when the tourists won a penalty and suddenly you could see the frustration that was spoken about last week being channelled in the right manner.

Ireland are a much better team when they dictate the game on their own terms and playing catch-up in the first Test defeat didn't suit them.

Emphatic

However, when Kurtley Beale scored so early, you wondered how Ireland would respond - what they came up with was emphatic.

Opposition teams continue to be surprised when Furlong pops up in midfield and the Wallabies were caught out again on Saturday.

The 25-year-old's stunning first-half line break should have been rewarded with a try. It's certainly one for this morning's review session, but those around him might also have helped him out.

Image 1 shows Garry Ringrose (blue circle) running a good support line off Furlong (red), but the centre is a little too eager and over-runs his team-mate, which makes it difficult for him to pass off his right.

45furlong.jpg
Tadhg Furlong in action.

The intercepted pass that Furlong eventually plays was never really on, and Schmidt won't be shy in letting him know, but he showed great determination to immediately win the ball back.

Early in the second half, Furlong emptied David Pocock at the breakdown, which Rob Kearney later described as the "greatest clean-out" he had ever seen.

Ireland brought a much better intensity to the breakdown, which was typified by Furlong (red) powering Pocock (blue) off the ball in image 2.

45furlong (2).jpg
Tadhg Furlong in action.

Peter O'Mahony also had a remarkable game in that regard. Some of the body positions that the Ireland captain gets himself into defies belief.

His low centre of gravity allows him to seamlessly get into the jackal position and once he is there, it is very difficult to remove him.

Pocock is a master at it as well, which is what made Furlong's clean-out all the more ferocious, and not to mention crucial, as it was the kind of big moment that other players feed off.

Amongst the aggression and physicality that Ireland brought to every aspect of their play, there were also a lot of subtleties that will have massively pleased Schmidt.

The return of Garry Ringrose had a major bearing on that, while it also freed up Robbie Henshaw, who looked much more comfortable back at inside centre.

Furlong's try came off a wonderfully intricate move off a set-piece. Devin Toner, who had another fine game, found CJ Stander from the lineout.

Just when it looked like Ireland would work their way through the phases, both Keith Earls and Jack McGrath recognised that Australia are short on numbers on the narrow side and that Nick Phipps was isolated as they pointed the way for Furlong.

Image 3 shows how the Wallabies defence (blue line) is expecting Conor Murray to go right to the pod of forwards, but instead, Furlong (red) runs a clever switch line (green) and scores a brilliant try.

45furlong3.jpg
Tadhg Furlong in action.

It looked easy, but when a pre-planned move like that works, particularly when it is one designed by Schmidt, the simple things done well, can be quite devastating.

Irish Independent

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