Sunday 5 February 2023 Dublin: -3°C
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Furlong back scrummaging as Porter's strong form for Leinster continues
The Wexford man has been sidelined with a back issue in recent weeks.

TADHG FURLONG RESUMED live scrummaging at Leinster training yesterday as he continues to recover from a back injury, with the province still hopeful he might be available to feature in Saturday’s Champions Cup quarter-final against Saracens.

The Ireland international tighthead prop has yet to play since rugby’s resumption over the past month and it remains to be seen if Leinster are willing to send him back into the fray in such an important fixture.

tadhg-furlong James Crombie / INPHO Furlong has been sidelined in recent weeks. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

The in-form Andrew Porter is expected to start at tighthead again this weekend but Leinster may be weighing up including Furlong on the bench.

“We’ve just done some light scrummaging… well I say light, if there is any such thing as light scrummaging,” said Leinster assistant coach Robin McBryde yesterday. “He has come through that alright anyway.

“Given the history and everything, you’ve to respect the medical opinion so it will be based around that, whether they think he’s too much of a risk or not.

“As far as Tadhg is concerned, he was very happy with the way the session went and he felt well, so we’ll see. We’re training again tomorrow and we’ll probably reassess tomorrow.”

The experienced Michael Bent has been providing back-up to Porter in recent weeks but if Furlong proves his fitness at training today, Leinster may be tempted to include the Lions prop.

Furlong will naturally be raring to get back on the pitch but Leinster must consider how he would hold up if called upon early in the Saracens clash due to any injury to Porter.

“It’s frustrating for Tadhg,” said McBryde. 

“We’re fortunate that we’ve got a high calibre of players to train against as and, from my own experience of being on the inside here, because we’ve got so much depth in the squad, those training sessions really have the intensity of some matches.

leinsters-andrew-porter Billy Stickland / INPHO Porter is in excellent form. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“I’m not going to say that they’re exactly the same because you’ve got different demands but it’s definitely something you can benefit from when you’re working your way back from injury.

“That said, it’s a big occasion so there’s a lot of things we have to weigh up when we consider those options. We know that Tadhg is a vastly-experienced British Lion, so we’ll see how we go.”

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McBryde underlined his faith in Porter and Bent if Furlong is unavailable again this weekend.

“I’ve been very impressed with Andrew Porter,” said former Wales hooker McBryde. “For a young man, athletically he’s one of the fittest front-rowers I’ve seen. He’s strong, he’s fit and I think he’s developing his game understanding, etc.

“He’s scrummaging particularly well and I’ve seen that on the back of the good work John Fogarty did here ahead of me. It’s just building on what he put in place and the more I’m getting to know Andrew, the more we’re able to sort of discuss some small little details that maybe you wouldn’t go there if you didn’t know somebody that well.

“Michael is a vastly experienced operator. He knows what works for him and I’m not going to try and change him. Again, there’s small little tricks even with somebody of his experience, but he’s done a job for us and he’s a good sounding board for me to have around as well and for some of the youngsters because we’re trying to build some depth here in the front row.”

Given Porter’s excellent form in this restarted season, there’s no doubt Furlong will be keen to get back as soon as possible and show his class once again.

“He’s going from strength to strength and putting a lot of pressure on Tadhg,” said McBryde of Porter. “I know Tadhg hasn’t played in a while but it’s a good battle between the two of them.”

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