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'You kind of forget what losing feels like. It’s a gut-wrenching feeling, it's horrible'

Tadhg Furlong is back in Ireland’s starting XV and desperate to rediscover that winning feeling in Melbourne.

IRELAND HAVE FOUND themselves in unfamiliar territory this week, no doubt left to soul-search a little in the aftermath of defeat to Australia, but primarily faced with the task of rebounding in Melbourne on Saturday with no margin for error.

A 12-game winning streak came to a grinding halt in the face of an aggressive and clinical Wallabies display last weekend, and for many of the players in Joe Schmidt’s squad — Tadhg Furlong included — it was their first taste of defeat this season.

Tadhg Furlong Furlong pictured at Ireland's team hotel earlier this week. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

So, the process of taking the ‘learnings’ from Suncorp Stadium and applying them in Saturday’s rematch has taken on added significance this week, with Schmidt raising the stakes by recalling the likes of Furlong, Johnny Sexton, Cian Healy, Dan Leavy and Garry Ringrose.

The tighthead prop came off the bench as a second-half replacement last week and was unable to stop Ireland from slipping to a 19-8 reversal, which was Furlong’s first taste of defeat since the first Test of last summer’s Lions tour of New Zealand.

That’s made all the more remarkable when you consider Furlong played such an integral role in Ireland’s Grand Slam success as well as Leinster’s dominance in the Champions Cup and Pro14, with his own personal winning streak ending at 24 games.

It comes as no surprise, then, to learn that the build-up to Saturday has had a different feel to it for the 25-year-old Wexford native and his team-mates, although that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“I think you have to look and be honest with yourself,” Furlong said at the team hotel.

“You have to put your pride to one side and look at where we were at, at the weekend, and, you know, our usual standards and where we want to go to as a group. Try to massively buy into that and then it comes down to individuals fitting within that.

“I suppose in a strange and not trying to be arrogant way, you kind of forget what losing feels like. It’s gut-wrenching, horrible and it gives you a perspective to knuckle down and go again and go hard because it’s just not a nice feeling to have.

“The group is determined and feeling relatively fresh. I think training today went really well and there was a pep in everyone’s step. Lads are massively enthusiastic about going out there and, you know, it’s game two of a three-game series, it’s still all to play for and it’s a massive carrot for us.”

Tadhg Furlong, Peter O'Mahony and Garry Ringrose Furlong is back in Schmidt's XV this weekend. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Furlong, who will win his 25th cap at a sold-out AAMI Park [KO 11.05am Irish time, Sky Sports], added it’s important the squad haven’t dwelt too much on defeat this week, instead focusing on the same processes which saw them go unbeaten for more than 12 months.

“From my perspective anyway, what’s happened has happened. You want to know why it’s happened and how you can fix it. I suppose in rugby we’re lucky where every weekend nearly is constant: you perform, the review happens straight away and then you’re on to something else.


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“There’s not much time for self pity or wallowing, you have to get up and get on with it, especially on a three-game tour. There’s just no time to wallow. You have to recover, get your body right and mentally get back on the horse.

“The you have to take your learnings and from those learnings, seeing them in pictures on laptops, you have to put them back out on the field.”

Furlong references his experiences on the Lions tour, in particular, and points to the fact Warren Gatland’s men suffered defeat in the first Test, before turning the series around to share the spoils with the All Blacks.

Two years ago, the Leinster prop was only making his international debut in the summer tour of South Africa (the last time Ireland lost back-to-back Tests), which proved to be a real coming of age for Furlong as his nascent career scaled new heights with a couple of big performances.

Since then, Furlong’s stock has soared considerably and even after a golden season, during which he has clocked up 1,369 minutes over those 24 appearances, there is an insatiable hunger for success, perhaps heightened further by the disappointment of last week.

Tadhg Furlong The prop in the gym this week. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Obviously through the season playing big games and big games back-to-back, you get a few little knocks and niggles, and it’s good to get on the top of those,” he added.

“The same for the early part of last week. I can say that the body is feeling as good as it has now in a good few months. I’m over a lot of those little knocks and niggles, and I felt really fresh at the weekend and I felt really good at training today.

“Coming back into this environment, seeing the lads again, and the buzz around it and  the standard of training, standard of coaching and everything, and representing your country again, it’s really, really good.”

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