Monday 23 July 2018

Furlong content to allow actions on the field speak louder than words off it

Tadhg Furlong during Leinster Rugby squad training at UCD. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Tadhg Furlong during Leinster Rugby squad training at UCD. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Tadhg Furlong walks into the room and puts his chest foot forward.

Though so physically imposing, Furlong freights his breezy confidence with the lightness of a ballet dancer.

Already a Lion, instituted so prematurely after his breakthrough into the Leinster and Ireland sides, it would seem as if here before us is a man so brimming with ease that he is surely already a young leader of so many older men.

But that is not the case. His frame could freight so many others but, for now at least, he is more content to be satisfyingly self-sufficient and just carry himself.

In response to a generic query about the leadership group, the Wexford man's disarming reply says much about the comfort he has in knowing where his place is and how much he enjoys occupying it.

Instructions

"I am not in the leadership group so I couldn't comment," he blithely reveals. "I would be ignorant to the conversations they'd have."

Except he is not ignorant of the instructions that emerge from those conversations as his sustained form demonstrates. They inform, he performs. Simple as. Deeds come easier than him to words, as he freely admits.

"I always enjoyed the saying, 'Look after your own shop' or, 'If it's to be it's up to me,'" explains the 25-year-old, who will earn his 20th cap against France next month after being named in Joe Schmidt's Six Nations squad this morning.

"So a lot of the time I try to get my own ducks in a row and perform. I wouldn't be massively vocal in team meetings or stuff like that, I just try to earn my stripes and work hard. Maybe down the track when you're 27, 28, 29, you can sort of maybe think about that but at the minute I'm happy enough to focus on myself and try to perform as best I can."

The evidence speaks as eloquently as any rousing speech. Unlike others who have dipped since the summer, Furlong's graph, if anything, is still heading skyward.

And he is adding more to his game, too; Stuart Lancaster's skills emphasis produced a quite stunning, five-metre lateral offload on the gain-line last Sunday, whose audacity defied the naked eye.

Hidden talents are emerging more to the fore now than ever before and it is clear that last summer's global exposure has infused him with the confidence to consistently peak as he binds, if not speak as he finds.

"It gives you confidence. To start three Tests was a great experience and I suppose to be given a bit of leadership in the scrum with Graham Rowntree (scrum coach) was really good in terms of seeing a different perspective.

"The main thing that comes from it is that you're sharing knowledge and techniques and processes with people from other countries, coaches from other countries, and you get a different viewpoint on a lot of things.

"It probably makes you take stock, it gives you stuff to think about and it pushes you on. It's a hard one to describe what I'm thinking, but it gives you confidence. It generally makes you a better player."

Given his role as Ireland's scrum anchor, he will arguably be as important as any of his fleet-footed colleagues when the Six Nations begins in just 18 days' time.

You can tell him that but when he looks in the mirror he won't repeat it. "Best looking or best?" he chuckles. "Ten out of ten for looks here - no, I'm kidding! Look, I personally wouldn't view myself that way.

Arrogance

"You meet some people and they would be naturally confident or bordering on arrogance.

"I wouldn't see myself in that way. I would put myself under pressure to play well. I would question myself, I'd look at video and say to myself, 'You need to do this better, that better, that better' and then look at how I can do that better.

"That's where you get your extras to do after training and stuff, so I would put pressure on myself but I wouldn't be of that mindset."

You suggest that at least he doesn't suffer an inferiority complex. The inner confidence reveals all.

"You can look at other tightheads and think, 'I might do that better than they would,' or say, 'They would do that better than I would'.

"You're always looking and learning in that sense. If I think I do something well I have no problem in saying, 'That was good'. I'm not that hard on myself at the same time."

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