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'There are not too many tighthead props in world rugby who can do that'

Mike Ross has been impressed with Tadhg Furlong’s form for Ireland.

Furlong has made an impressive return with Ireland.
Furlong has made an impressive return with Ireland.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

GEORGE TURNER AND Finn Russell won’t have enjoyed seeing the replays but they aren’t Tadhg Furlong’s first victims, to be fair.

In among plenty of important contributions up front in another strong performance from the Irish pack on Sunday against Scotland, the tighthead prop’s delightful show of footwork and pass to Stander was perhaps the highlight of the entire game.

Furlong’s predecessor as Ireland’s starting number three, Mike Ross, was watching on with a hint of envy.

“It was disgusting, absolutely disgusting,” said Ross yesterday. “There are not too many tighthead props in world rugby who can do that, are there? Certainly not in Ireland. So, yeah, another one for the highlights reel.”

Furlong has always had those eye-catching moments in him, whether they involve explosive power – as against the All Blacks in 2018 – or more deft handling skills and sidesteps like last weekend against the Scots.

The Wexford man has returned for Ireland in impressive fashion in this Six Nations after spending almost a year out of the game with back, hamstring, and calf injuries.

Furlong only played 40 minutes for Leinster before re-joining Ireland and having come off the bench in their first two games against Wales and France, he came back into the starting team for the wins over Italy and Scotland. 

While Furlong’s ability at the highest level was never in doubt, Ross has been impressed with the 28-year-old’s good form.

“I was talking to him a couple of weeks ago and in a way, the extended lay-off did him a favour,” said Ross. “He’d been playing pretty much non-stop for about three years since he broke onto the international team between summer tours, Lions tours, and the rest of it.

JMM22329 Mike Ross launched ISPCC Childline’s ‘Team Of Us-Together for Childline’ competition.

“It gave him the chance to work on a few areas that he hadn’t been able to, get a proper pre-season in, eat the weights for a bit, and I think you’re seeing the benefits of it now.”

Ross is certain Furlong will be part of the Lions squad again this summer if the series against South Africa goes ahead, while he also “wouldn’t write Cian Healy off in that department either.”

33-year-old Healy signed a new one-year IRFU central contract extension recently and remains the first-choice at loosehead prop for Ireland.

“I think he’s going really well,” said Ross. “Cian is the only prop I know who is under 10% body fat. His lean mass is around 100kgs. He was crucifying himself in that home gym he has over the summer.

“I’d back him to keep going, I don’t think he’ll retire, I think he’ll be retired. If you look at his history, his track record, I’m not going to say he’ll go on to 37 or 38, but I do think he’s got another two or three years left in him at least if he keeps himself in condition because he’s probably the best-conditioned prop in Ireland at the moment.”

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell remains open to the possibility of tighthead Andrew Porter switching back across to his former position at loosehead at some stage in the future, but Ross thinks it’s a bad idea.

“I think he should stay at tighthead. I don’t know why people think… you know, we’ve successfully taught him to write with his left hand, now let’s get him back.

“No, he’s a really good tighthead, really good, and as we all know tightheads in Ireland aren’t that common.

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andrew-porter Ross believes Porter should stay at tighthead. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We’ve taken one and taken a lot of time and investment in teaching him how to play. In an emergency, he can pitch up there if a player gets injured, but you know, he’s a very successful player so why move him?

“Plus you get more money playing tighthead so you wouldn’t want to move!”

Farrell has included 22-year-old Ulster tighthead Tom O’Toole in many of his Ireland squads but has yet to cap him, with Ross rating him as one for the future.

“If you asked me a few years ago, I’d have said he’s excellent around the park but scrum needs work, but his scrum has come on an awful lot,” said Ross.

“Before I had been a bit nervous but what I’ve seen of him in Ulster, he’s been working well with Dan McFarland up there and really brought on that part of his game, and he’s brought on a lot of other parts of his game that other players don’t have.

“He’s still quite young but I think he’s a very good guy for the future.”

Mike Ross launched ISPCC Childline’s ‘Team Of Us-Together for Childline’ competition, with thanks to Vodafone and Irish Rugby, which gives fans the chance to win a player’s signed matchday jersey from the England game. To be in with a chance, make a donation of at least €10 to ISPCC Childline.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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