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Gatland backs Furlong to show he is one of the best props in the world

The Lions head coach is excited about how good the Ireland tighthead can be.

Murray Kinsella reports from Auckland

LIONS BOSS WARREN Gatland thinks Tadhg Furlong will end the tour of New Zealand having established himself as one of the best props in world rugby.

The 24-year-old Wexford man has been named to start at tighthead in Saturday’s first Test against the All Blacks and Gatland is excited about his potential to get even better.

Tadhg Furlong Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Furlong has played just 16 times for Ireland and only made his first start last summer on the tour of South Africa, but he has made a rapid rise in the past year.

The Leinster prop is now set to link up with Mako Vunipola and Jamie George in the Lions’ front row this weekend, with Gatland confident that Furlong will continue on his upward trajectory.

“Tadhg is getting better and better,” said Gatland. “He’s still pretty green but he’s got something about him – he’s explosive, he’s quick for a big man, surprisingly quick.

He’s a good ball carrier and he had a nice bit of inside play with Johnny [Sexton] and then an offload [against the Māori All Blacks]. That’s what we’re encouraging players to do and he’s the modern prop, for me.

“You’ve got to have more than just set-piece, scrum and lineout. You’ve got to be able to get around the pitch and defend, so I think in the next few years he’s definitely going to be one of the world’s best in that position.

“He’s just getting better and better and I think he’ll come away from this tour having established himself as being one of the top props in world rugby.”

Lions scrum coach Graham Rowntree echoed the praise for Furlong, having worked closely with the New Ross RFC product on this tour.

Head Coach Warren Gatland talks to Rhys Webb with Tadgh Furlong in the background during the Captains Run Furlong has put his hand up as first-choice tighthead. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Rowntree had spoken about his excitement about coaching Furlong before the trip to New Zealand began and the Irishman has lived up to expectations.

“I’m very impressed,” said Rowntree, who toured twice with the Lions as a player. “He’s a young man, a young prop still learning his trade.

“But he’s learning a lot on this trip and I thought he was exceptional on Saturday night [against the Māori].

“With Tadhg, it’s a lot more than just set-piece; his game-involvements – we have that much data like GPS data and you can really see who is working. He’s putting shifts in at the set-piece and around the field.

“It’s going to be difficult, but Tadhg is certainly learning a lot as a young player and I’m enjoying working with him.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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