Dan Sheridan/INPHO Furlong is starting his sxith consecutive Lions Test.
Furlong's 'unbelievable' work has had a big influence on Lions pack
The Wexford man teams up with Ken Owens and Wyn Jones in the front row this weekend.

LIONS HOOKER KEN Owens has praised the impact of Ireland tighthead Tadhg Furlong on the tourists as they get set for a huge battle with the formidable Springboks pack in Saturday’s deciding third Test in Cape Town.

Owens has come into the Lions front row along with Wales team-mate Wyn Jones but Furlong has been retained in the number three shirt for what will be his sixth consecutive Lions Test start across two tours.

The Wexford man was a starter in New Zealand in 2017 too but Owens, who played twice off the bench in the Tests four years ago, says Furlong has had an even bigger impact on the Lions this time around.

“Tadhg is an absolutely world-class front row forward,” said Owens this afternoon. “Scrummaging-wise, he knows exactly what he wants from you as a hooker and what he needs.

“The work he does off the field is just unbelievable, the detail he goes into to make sure his scrummaging is spot on and what he expects of his hooker, loosehead, flanker. That rubs off on you and leaves you in no doubt that he’s the anchor of the scrum.

“He leaves you in no doubt about what he expects from you and I think he’s gone up a level from four years ago definitely with his experience around the place. What he has added to his game especially is not just the scrummaging but his knowledge and talk around the maul work and contact area, carrying.

“He is definitely an all-round player now and not just a scrummaging threat. He’s a lot more experienced from four years ago and he’s added lots to his game since then as well.”

Furlong hasn’t had it all his own way in the current Test series against the Boks, whose aggressive scrummaging has caused the Lions problems over the last two weekends.

ken-owens Dan Sheridan / INPHO Owens knows the scrum battle will be huge. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Furlong, Owens, and Jones will hope to make a big statement in that area on Saturday, as the Welsh loosehead returns from injury to make his Test debut – having been named to start the first Test but then ruled out with a shoulder issue.

“I was obviously hugely proud of Wyn getting the call in the first place and then obviously devastation a couple of days later when he was ruled out,” said Owens. “I’m just glad he’s managed to get himself back to fitness and has got that starting jersey.

“He has been outstanding for Scarlets and Wales over the last couple of years and it’s great to have the opportunity to play for the Lions. I’m sure that Carmarthenshire and Radio Wales have been inundated with it on the radio back home, he’s a very proud man of Llandovery.

“It’s great he gets this opportunity and I’m sure he will do everyone in Llandovery proud on the weekend.”

Owens himself is hugely proud to get his first Lions Test start, having made four appearances off the bench in the last two tours, and understands that head coach Gatland needs to see him make an impact at set-piece time.

Gatland, who Owens knows very well from his time in charge of Wales and the last Lions tour too, has been a positive influence this week.

“He’s very calm, he just knows how to get the best out of the players whether it’s a small conversation here or there,” said Owens.

“He steps in when he needs to, prompts boys when he needs to and he’s just very calm and knows how to get the best out of each individual. He has been at his best with that stuff this week. You can sense the confidence and experience he brings by the way he enters team meetings and talks.

“That huge experience he has got is right around the place at the moment.” 

The42 Rugby Weekly / SoundCloud

Bernard Jackman and Murray Kinsella are joined by Craig Ray on The42 Rugby Weekly to preview the deciding third Lions Test on Saturday.

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