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'I always enjoyed the saying 'look after your own shop' or 'if it's to be, it's up to me''

Tadhg Furlong is enjoying Leinster’s offloading freedom but is still keeping his head down.

TADHG FURLONG LIKES an offload, and he likes a pass too.

It’s the Leinster man’s skill level that helps him stand out above so many other tightheads in world rugby. His comfort on the ball remains impressive even now that it has become part of the norm for both Leinster and Ireland.

There was more evidence of his quality last weekend as Leinster dismantled Glasgow in the Champions Cup, with Furlong contributing six passes and three offloads – the most of any Leinster forward in both categories.

Furlong

Of course, a prop’s job is primarily about the set-piece duties but that is no longer enough. Players like Furlong are setting a new standard for prop forwards – no more passengers in open play.

“It’s across the board,” says Furlong. “The emphasis on skills and being able to handle a ball with confidence, that you are not jittery trying to catch the thing, that you have the confidence to put the hands out to catch it and be comfortable, is something that we work on in training a fair bit.

“Even within our gym sessions there are mini skill blocks broken into sets. To progress as a rugby team and play the way we want to play, it’s fundamentally important that the members of the pack are all comfortable with ball in hand.

“I think the more time that we spend training the way we are training, the emphasis that Stuart [Lancaster] puts on it, the better and better we are becoming at it. It’s nice to see that progression.”

Furlong is certainly leading the way, though the rest of Leinster’s forwards continue to show fine progression with their handling skills too.

Being a leader on the pitch through his skill level and various other attributes is something that happens naturally with Furlong, but the 25-year-old is happy to be outside Leinster’s official leadership group off the pitch for now.

“I always enjoyed the saying ‘look after your own shop’ or ‘if it’s to be, it’s up to me,’ so a lot of the time I try to get my own ducks in a row and perform,” he explains.

Tadhg Furlong Furlong has always been comfortable on the ball. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“I wouldn’t be massively vocal in team meetings or stuff like that, I just try to earn my stripes and work hard.

“Maybe down the track when you’re 27, 28, 29 you can sort of maybe think about that, but at the minute I’m happy enough to focus on myself and try to perform as best I can.”

It’s not that Furlong doubts himself or his thinking; he comes across as an excellent communicator and intelligent person. Indeed, his confidence this season is higher than ever, particularly off the back of last summer’s Lions tour.

“To start three Tests was a great experience and I suppose to be given a bit of leadership in the scrum with Graham Rowntree was really good and seeing a different perspective.

“I think the main thing that comes off it is that you’re sharing knowledge and techniques and processes with people from other countries, coaches from other countries, and you get a different viewpoint on a lot of things.

“It probably makes you take stock, it gives you stuff to think about and it pushes you on. It’s a hard one to describe, but it gives you confidence. I think it generally makes you a better player.”

Leinster are delighted to be able to call on Furlong’s improved mindset and skill level as their fine season rolls on with a Champions Cup trip to Montpellier this weekend.

Thought the eastern province have already secured their home quarter-final ahead of the final pool stage fixture, they have been building towards this game as an important moment in their journey.

Tadhg Furlong congratulates try scorer Scott Fardy Furlong celebrates with Scott Fardy. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

For this Leinster team, winning away in France feels like it could be the next step.

“Essentially it’s another game for the group, but looking at our history over the last few years, it’s a big thing for us, certainly something that motivates us to perform at the weekend,” says Furlong.

“You can maybe say that we are after qualifying for a home quarter-final, we’re playing good stuff, but it would be easy to switch off going into a week like this. The player group across the way certainly doesn’t feel like that.

“It’s a massive challenge for us against a really quality outfit at home. Playing in France is different because of the crowd, the atmosphere, they get behind their players and gee them up. At times it can feel a little bit intimidating.

“As a group, the challenge for us is can we deal with all those aspects?

“Can we deal the extra hour on the flight, staying in a French hotel where the food might be a little bit different and playing against a really good side in a challenging atmosphere and still perform?”

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Murray Kinsella

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