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Dublin: -1°C Thursday 15 April 2021

Furlong keeps feet on the ground ahead of first Six Nations start for Ireland

The 24-year-old already looks like a veteran of Joe Schmidt’s set-up.

TADHG FURLONG IS set to make his first Six Nations start on Saturday against Scotland in Murrayfield, but it seems a bit odd to be writing that.

The Wexford man is still only 24. Such was his level of impact in last year’s November Tests, however, it feels as though he has been around for many years.

Ireland’s Tadhg Furlong runs into New Zealand All Blacks Kieran Read Furlong sits Kieran Read down on the ground in November. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

A quick run through his international career is a timely reminder that he is still a relative newcomer to the international scene.

The tighthead made his Ireland debut in the World Cup warm-up clash with Wales on 29 August 2015, featuring again off the bench against England a week later.

A single replacement appearance followed against Romania at the World Cup, before two further caps as a sub in last year’s Six Nations. Furlong came off the bench in the first Test against South Africa in June, then finally made his first Ireland start in the second game.

He was back on the bench the following week as Joe Schmidt’s side missed their chance to grab a series win against the Boks.

But in November, Furlong moved onto a new level for Ireland, starting both games against New Zealand and the win over Australia. He was outstanding all three times.

“I was ticking along nicely,” says Furlong when asked if anything changed before November, perhaps during the trip to South Africa. “I took a lot of confidence from that South Africa tour.

“When you are coming in from the outside, you might come in for a game or two or just be training. To go from that to playing consistently, three games on the bounce, you learn a lot about yourself and your preparation, looking after your body.

“The way Test matches are they take so much out of you physically, mentally, emotionally. It is building that up to a Test game and then there’s just that sudden spike and drop-off after it.

Tadhg Furlong Furlong at Ireland training yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It is about managing that, to pick it up off base level, eke your way into Test match week again. It is something that is tough and takes time to adjust to.

“I learned a lot from that tour to South Africa, especially coming to the end of the season, playing three big games away from home.”

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Furlong still only has 11 Ireland caps and though he is being pushed as a strong contender for the Lions this summer, perhaps even as the starting tighthead, he is characteristically calm about his rapid rise.

“I am a lot more experienced than I was if you were talking to me this time last year going into the Wales game,” says Furlong. “In the grand scheme of things, I still have a lot to learn. That is natural for a 24-year-old tighthead.

“It is dangerous if you start thinking you have this whole thing figured out because I definitely don’t. With the experience – I still don’t have a massive amount of it compared to some of the lads – it breeds confidence that you know how it works.

“You know how training works. You know what’s required of you. Away from that there, you can just focus on getting your role right, getting your job right.”

While Furlong is deeply serious about his job as a professional rugby player, there is a warm and humorous side to his personality that is very welcome in an era where press conferences tend to be drab affairs.

The Leinster prop is therefore well able to handle some slagging about having recently upgraded his car from a Renault to a Jaguar.

Tadhg Furlong Furlong has some skills to go along with his set-piece prowess and carrying power. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“It’s just a local fella back home who went to my school, from the parish, who said, ‘Would I be interested?’ and I said, ‘Of course I would’. There’s not a whole lot else to it. It’s not as if I’m after changing my lifestyle or I’m after changing.

“I don’t think you’d be allowed to either, in a place like this. Even the lads back home, they’d be first on your case! I absolutely don’t think so.”

Source: The42 Rugby Show/SoundCloud

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Murray Kinsella

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