Sunday 19 November 2017

World Cup can wait as Furlong works his way up pecking order

Tadhg Furlong
Tadhg Furlong
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

He is the latest in a seemingly never-ending conveyor belt of props coming through the Leinster academy, and Tadhg Furlong is determined to take his chance over the coming weeks, with several of front-line players away on international duty.

Having been promoted to a full-time senior contract at the beginning of the season, Furlong's progress hasn't gone unnoticed.

Joe Schmidt invited him to train with the Ireland squad at Carton House in November and although he hasn't been in the Kildare base during the Six Nations, he is using the time to further his claim within the Leinster ranks.

At 22, Furlong's career is only beginning, but he says that the toughest scrummaging environment he's faced was in training with his province against a plethora of Irish internationals.

Competitive

"Training is probably the most competitive environment," Furlong says.

"You come up against guys like Church (Cian Healy), Jack McGrath and Michael Bent, who is very tricky. There's a lot of guys there who are excellent scrummagers.

"I've never liked scrummaging against Cian Healy. He's got a very strong back and he's a huge man. He's proven himself on the international stage as well."

Furlong knows that all of this experience will stand to him in the future but he doesn't need reminding of how crucial this period is for him personally.

Leinster's scrum coach Marco Caputo gave a glowing appraisal of Furlong earlier in the week but the tighthead isn't getting too carried away with World Cup aspirations just yet.

"If you're in a position to get minutes, you want to make the most of it. I'm excited and I think the rest of the lads are as well," he says.

"I haven't even thought about it (World Cup). I've been lucky that I've been involved in every match day squad for Leinster bar Zebre away, where I was concussed.

"The goal for me is to remain in the 23 for the bigger games and keep building on that."

He has become an integral part of Matt O'Connor's plans during the Six Nations window but he knows that tighthead rivals Mike Ross and Marty Moore will soon return to heighten the competition for places.

Battle

His focus for now remains on this evening's game against the Ospreys - a side who he expects a tough battle with, especially in the front-row.

"They're quite good - very strong. We don't know what players they're going to have because they have a lot away on international duty as well," he says.

"They've quality there and they'll probably shape up just like they did at the RDS, and that was a good contest in the front-row."

International rugby is a certainty further down the line but the Wexford native is staying grounded and acknowledges that he watches Ireland's Six Nations progress with more than a passing glance.

"Of course you look at it. I very much look at it as a student of the game," he explains.

If Furlong stays on the right path, the student will one day become the teacher.

Irish Independent

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