Furlong is back for Ireland. Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

'There are certain players that give a sense of confidence... He's one of them'

Ireland boss Andy Farrell is delighted to welcome Tadhg Furlong back from injury.

WE HAVEN’T SEEN Tadhg Furlong on the pitch since early December. He got through 36 minutes off the bench against Ulster in what was one of his two Leinster appearances this season.

He was supposed to be ready for the start of the Six Nations but it wasn’t to be. Instead, he’s had to wait until round four to get up and running. On Sunday in Edinburgh, 63-times capped Furlong will make his return.

Ireland boss Andy Farrell is in no doubt about what his team are getting back.

“He’s a world-class prop and a great leader,” said Farrell after naming his team today.

“When you look around the changing room, there are certain players that give a sense of confidence whether they’re saying something or not. He’s one of them.”

The lack of game time isn’t a big worry for Farrell. He picked Furlong to start all three of Ireland’s Tests last autumn despite the tighthead having only played 40 minutes for Leinster up until that point of the season.

The Ireland boss is backing Furlong to get straight back up to speed.

“Some players can and some players can’t and he’s across his detail like no other,” said Farrell.

“Tadhg doesn’t have to tear himself apart mentally to try and make sure that he gets up to speed because he’s already figured it out. He’s one of those that probably when he’s driving the car, or sat in his room, or having a bit of food or whatever, he’s probably thinking about the game anyway so when it comes to training it’s all boxed off.

“He brings confidence to the team by how he prepares and that gives us confidence to know that he’s ready to play.

“Tadhg’s got nothing to lose. He just needs to be himself, he just needs to go out there and enjoy it. He’s enjoyed the week, he’s been pretty relaxed so far, he’s been great around the group.”

andy-farrell Andy Farrell speaking to the media today. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Farrell has picked an impressive 23 for this weekend, with Furlong joining captain Johnny Sexton and outside centre Garry Ringrose in returning to the starting team, while scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park and centre Robbie Henshaw return on the bench.

The injured Tadhg Beirne and Finlay Bealham are probably the only two players missing from a first-choice Irish 23.

“Form, people champing at the bit, the right balance of what fits for the starting team and what fits for the bench in terms of the energy that’s going to come on is all part of the package,” said Farrell of how he picked this squad.

“People nursing a little bit of an injury like Stu McCloskey is fit enough and if called upon is fit and well and ready to go but at the same time, he’s had a bit of a niggle there. So putting your hat on and trying to balance what’s right for this week and for next is key for the rest of the tournament, I feel.”

Farrell could have been tempted to bring Gibson-Park back into the starting XV but he opted instead for the in-form Murray.

“Jamison has just come back into the group, he’s not been back long,” said Farrell.

“We’ve seen his quality in training already but Conor’s playing really well and deserves to start.

“Conor’s a big-game player and his style of play has suited a lot of styles we’ve come up against throughout the years, so we expect him to be at his best.”

After Jack Conan started in Rome against Italy two weekends ago, Farrell has restored Peter O’Mahony to his back row, with Caelan Doris reverting to the number eight jersey after starting at six last time out.

caelan-doris Doris is back at number eight. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“Caelan’s a world-class number eight and he’s on fire in that position,” said Farrell.

“People can think too much into that because you change the way that you play to make sure the personnel are able to be themselves anyway. So Caelan plays well whether he’s at six or eight, but I think this balance is the right one for this game.”

Ireland are seven-point favourites for Sunday at Murrayfield but Farrell insists he’s expecting a ferocious battle.

“I think they’ve always been a really tough side to break down,” said Farrell. “The proof is in the history of that. You name me a game where they’ve not been confident going into a game against Ireland.

“Rightly so really because we’ve always had ding-dong battles with them. It’s always been really tough and this is no different, so both sides are used to that.” 

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