Furlong helps Ireland to a penalty against South Africa. Dan Sheridan/INPHO
The Jukebox

'I’m only 30. The body is feeling really good at the minute'

Ireland tighthead prop Tadhg Furlong loves big weeks like this one.

THIS IS TADHG Furlong’s third World Cup but only his second as a key figure in the Ireland squad. 

Back in 2015, he made it as a 22-year-old having only earned his Test debut during the warm-up games. Furlong was brought as the versatile fifth prop, covering tighthead and loosehead in the event of injury emergencies.

Mike Ross was the main man in the number three shirt, with Nathan White backing him up, and having come into the World Cup with just two caps to his name, both of them off the bench, Furlong was never likely to have a central role. He ended up playing 15 minutes at the end of Ireland’s win over Romania.

It wasn’t until the 2016/17 season, when Ross had retired from Ireland duty and White had retired from rugby, that Furlong’s Ireland career really took off. He never looked back, earning a spot with the Lions at the end of that campaign and soon establishing himself as one of the best tightheads in the world.

He has never veered from that status. Irish fans sometimes seem to find themselves waiting for highlight reel moments from Furlong, the explosive carries and slick passes, but that sometimes means his less glamorous work goes underappreciated.

He doesn’t strike you as the kind of person who cares too much about public opinion on his form. Furlong is comfortable in his own skin and after 70 Test caps for Ireland, he knows what works best for him and his team.

And yet, despite, all that experience, Furlong feels there’s lots more to come from him. He has had lots of injury frustration over the past two seasons but he’s feeling physically sharp at this World Cup.

irelandos-tadhg-furlong Furlong at the 2015 World Cup. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“I’m only 30, you know,” says Furlong.

“In terms of training load and all the GPS craic and all that, we’ve always been building up through. I haven’t, touch wood, had a setback or a niggle or anything like that. The body is feeling really good at the minute.”

He’s ready to go again this weekend as Ireland look to secure a win against Scotland on Saturday, which would guarantee them top spot in Pool B of the World Cup and send them into a quarter-final against New Zealand.

These are the weeks that Furlong and co. live for.

“I think it brings the best out of rugby players,” says Furlong. “It shows your mentality, it shows what you’re about, it shows what the group is about. It shows a lot.

“The proof is always in the pudding in terms of how the match goes, and how you deal with the pressure. It’s just about trying to get on.

“I think as a group, we are relatively experienced and we have a good understanding of how we work and how the team works and how to get the most out of the team in these big games.

“We have played in big games before. So, now it’s just about trying to get your prep right and try to get your best performance out there.”

Ireland have won their last eight games against Scotland, which adds to their favouritism for this weekend’s clash in Paris.

But Furlong insists that Ireland’s positive run against the Scots counts for little now.

“We don’t look into that a massive amount,” says the Wexford man. “Of course, you look at the last game, you probably don’t look at the seven before that.

tadhg-furlong-is-tackled Furlong carries against Tonga. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“Rugby is ever-changing and evolving. I think they’re flying at the minute. I was really impressed with their warm-up games against France and have been really impressed with how they’ve performed in the tournament so far.

“I would imagine they’re disappointed with their South Africa performance. They’ve come on a lot since the Six Nations and they had a really good Six Nations. I thought they were flying then as well. It’s going to be a huge challenge for us this weekend.”

Ireland travel to Paris today as they bid farewell to the city of Tours, which has been their base since arriving at the end of August. 

The plan is to be in Paris through until the final, but they’ll miss Tours.

“It’s been lovely,” says Furlong. “We’ve been very fortunate. I’m not sure how we ended up being based here, was it the IRFU or World Rugby, or how it all came about, but it’s been great for the players – the training facilities, the gym, the hotel, team room, etc.

“Down into town, you have some really nice coffee shops and good restaurants. From a rugby perspective and when you’re touring you tick so many boxes, so it’s been great.”

It’s all about business from here on in.

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