Thursday 22 March 2018

Furlong hails Ross influence as he looks to take his chance

Tadhg Furlong. Photo: Sportsfile
Tadhg Furlong. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Tadhg Furlong makes no bones about it - he's out for Mike Ross's shirt and now that he's been given the opportunity to wear the Ireland No 3 for the first time, he is determined to keep a hold of it.

Yet at the end of last weekend's first Test win over South Africa at Newlands, the two men embraced and posed for a photo together as they celebrated a job well done.

The master and his apprentice.

Despite Joe Schmidt's assertion that he doesn't do rotation, Ireland are keen to emphasise that Ross has not been dropped for the second Test at Ellis Park, merely rested.

Schmidt brushed off the suggestion that it was the passing of a torch between the Fermoy native and the Wexford man, but there is a sense that if Furlong nails it against Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira this weekend, the jersey will be very difficult to wrest from him.

"It's a strange thing, front-rowers seem to get on really well together off the pitch," Furlong said after being named in the starting XV for the first time yesterday.

"I don't know why but any team I go into they seem to always get on. So off the pitch we're obviously friends, we can chat away or we go for coffee or a bit of lunch...

"At the same time you can be friends but you're still competing with that man and especially in Leinster I would have done anything to get ahead of him.

"Rossy's been great, Feeky's (scrum coach Greg Feek) been great. I've been on a long road with them throughout the years, through Feeky's time with Leinster and Rossy's been great.

"He's always been a helping hand, going through video with you and teaching you stuff. Even his record, his consistency is something to admire as a prop; especially as a young fella looking up to him, coming through the ranks.

"The way he does it consistently every week is something you admire because being out there I know how hard it is to do."

Like all props striving to make it to the top, Furlong has had to endure some adversity; no more than when he struggled to cope with Eddy Ben Arous as the tide turned against Ireland in Paris.

He saw no more action during the Six Nations, but knuckled down at Leinster and when he came on against South Africa last weekend, he turned the scrum in Ireland's favour.

"Being honest, it probably shakes you a little bit with the importance of those scrums, although they were obviously trying for a penalty try they didn't get one, but still scored a try off the back of the scrum," he said of the Stade de France experience.

"You probably just have to re-assess and when you look at it back you think that's actually not that bad.

"Coming towards the end of the season, my scrummaging has found a bit of form and there's no bigger test than this weekend."

That test comes in the form of the 'Beast', arguably the best loosehead in the world.

Yet you won't find anyone mentioning the Sharks prop's nick-name around Ireland camp as they look to demystify the man who dismantled Phil Vickery in the first Test of the 2009 Lions tour.

"They brought on Trevor Nkayane for him just before I came on for Rossy, so I've only seen a lot of videotapes on him," Furlong said. "But their scrum caused us a bit of trouble last week, especially when we were well able to survive on a steady platform.

"Coming into the game, it's a huge focus on not letting them get entry into the game by using the scrum on their ball by giving them penalties."

That's his mission tomorrow as he looks to keep the shirt.

Irish Independent

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