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Tadhg Furlong has fine record against All Blacks but still feels a fear

The Lions’ tighthead’s family arrived for last weekend’s memorable win in Wellington.

Murray Kinsella reports from Queenstown

THE LATEST UPDATE on James Furlong, father of Lions prop Tadhg, is a good one and only adds to the growing legend of the Wexford man.

Furlong’s parents arrived in New Zealand along with his girlfriend and her friend before last weekend’s second Test win and his old man is taking little time to settle into the new surroundings.

Tadhg Furlong with Jerome Kaino Furlong makes a big carry in Wellington. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The Ireland tighthead spent the night after the win in Wellington with his family at the team hotel, catching up on the goings-on at home and their long-haul trip down to New Zealand.

“Dad’s good,” says Furlong with a laugh. “Dad spent 14 hours looking at… you know on aeroplanes it shows how far the plane has gone – my mother said he actually watched that thing for the whole time, seeing would it jump on a bit!

“He wouldn’t watch a movie or anything. He’s in good spirits and I think he’s happy to be off out in the air at the minute and bombing around. Mixing and mingling is probably what he does best.”

It was obviously a special night for the family last Saturday, as they watched Tadhg beat the All Blacks for the second time in his young career.

While the Campile man tends to play down his achievements, it’s remarkable that he is even the Lions’ first-choice tighthead prop at the age of just 24.

And having helped Ireland to beat the Kiwis in Chicago in November, he now has a second All Blacks scalp.

“I’m incredibly lucky,” says Furlong. “I’d refer back to when we were playing New Zealand in Chicago with Ireland and lads had lost to New Zealand five or six times and I’d never played against them.

Tadhg Furlong Furlong has been excellent in New Zealand. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“They’d talk about their experiences and what works and what doesn’t work. Like, I didn’t know what to expect.

“To beat New Zealand in my first game playing them, knowing so many people had gone before, played them five or six times and never beaten them – legends of the game – you feel incredibly lucky in many ways, privileged, and to do it twice, even more so.”

Given that Furlong has never become accustomed to losing to the All Blacks – he’s two from four now – it’s tempting to suggest that they don’t hold any of that old aura or mystique in his eyes.

But as he looks for his third win against New Zealand this weekend, Furlong won’t be underplaying the scale of the task.

“I think you always fear the All Blacks in the way that if you don’t get your stuff sorted, if you don’t man up and meet them head on, it’s a tough day at the office. If that doesn’t happen they’ll cut you to ribbons in the wider channels, if you give them that sort of space.

“They can score a try from anywhere, they’re that dangerous, they’ve threats all over the park. If none of that works they’re just so damn consistent, good at holding on to the ball. They’re a tough team to beat.

“You have to keep attacking them, but it’s easier said than done.”

Having felt the brunt of the All Blacks’ aggression after being beaten back in November – they came to Dublin a fortnight later and hammered into collisions with an even greater determination – Furlong understands that this could be the toughest game of his career.

Tadhg Furlong Furlong is looking for a third win over the All Blacks. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“I remember coming off the pitch and being absolutely shattered,” he says of the November clash in Dublin. “I was sore for days after it. It was one of the most brutal Test matches I’ve played in in my short career.”

Among the many reasons Furlong will be optimistic, however, is the availability of Sean O’Brien after his citing complaint was dismissed on Sunday.

A Leinster and Ireland team-mate of Furlong’s, O’Brien has been one of the Lions’ best players on this tour and the tighthead will be relieved to run out alongside him again on Saturday at Eden Park.

“Seanie’s a big leader for us,” says Furlong. “I don’t know if you have access to ref mics, but you can always hear him in his high-pitched tone, shouting away and organising lads.

“He’s very vocal, leads the team, talks at team meetings and he leads a lot by his example. I’ve been lucky to come up under his tutelage, in a way, in Leinster, because we’ve quite similar backgrounds in Ireland and onto this.

“I can’t speak highly enough of him as a person or as a player and how important he is to this group.”

Given that O’Brien is a good country boy, like Tadhg, you’d have to think James Furlong approves too.

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