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Dublin: 5°C Sunday 17 January 2021

'It’s unbelievably proud for me and my family' - Furlong the Lion

The Leinster man will head to New Zealand with a strong chance of being the Test tighthead.

THOUGH THE MAN himself continually insisted that he had no expectations of making the Lions squad, Tadhg Furlong was one of the certainties to be named by Warren Gatland last week.

Tadhg Furlong Furlong is heading on tour this summer. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Following a season in which the affable Wexford man has been in superb form at tighthead for Leinster and Ireland, he will head to New Zealand this summer with every chance of wearing the Lions’ number three shirt.

Dan Cole is an experienced and robust competitor for that slot in Gatland’s Test side, but Furlong brings much more than just scrummaging ability and the usual work-rate related duties around the pitch.

While Leinster was his clear priority last week – Furlong learned of his selection in the province’s UCD base, with his team-mates heartily celebrating – the former New Ross RFC man might just take a moment to reflect in the coming days.

It’s unbelievably proud for me and my family,” said Furlong on Sunday after Clermont had ended Leinster’s European season at the semi-final stage.

“Having said that, it’s kind of a weird one because there was so much on the line this weekend that you force yourself not to think about it a lot. It is the nature of it.

“Look, I’m delighted. You lads [in the media] have been hounding me about it for a long time, haven’t ye, to be fair? If I can stay fit and healthy, which is never a given in this game that we play, I’ll be delighted to know that I’ll be on that plane.”

The bitter disappointment of Leinster’s defeat in Lyon will, of course, still be fresh for Furlong and his team-mates. While a Lions tour is something to greatly look forward to, the tighthead’s focus remains on his province for now.

Tadhg Furlong Furlong's Lions headshot. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The 27-22 loss against Clermont won’t sit easily with this ambitious group for some time.

“Everyone is massively deflated,” said Furlong. “I don’t think you can knock our courage to play and our willingness to play, our commitment to it.

“What is disappointing is the start we gave a quality team that is basically playing at home in front of a fantastic support. The atmosphere was incredible. You put yourself under a little bit of pressure there to come back into it and it probably told in the end.”

Nonetheless, Furlong is of the belief that Leinster have improved this season under Leo Cullen, Stuart Lancaster and co., pointing to their attack as the prime example.

Our endeavour to play attacking rugby is right up there. It’s enjoyable going into work every day because of the competition for places and the standard of training and the standard of players there is pushing hard.

“We’re just trying to get better and better each week and, as young group, we’ll learn the harsh lessons from this but we’ll also take confidence from our ability to battle back into a tough game and ultimately be disappointed that we didn’t convert or put them under more pressure.”

And before he switches into Lions mode, Furlong is determined to be part of the first trophy success for this particular Leinster group.

Tadhg Furlong and Devin Toner Furlong and Devin Toner during the defeat to Clermont. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

With a home semi-final in the Guinness Pro12 already secured with two regular-season rounds remaining and the final to take place in the Aviva Stadium, Leinster have no excuses.

Everyone is mad to win a trophy,” said Furlong, “me included. There are a lot of younger lads in the dressing-room without any medals in their back pockets. Everyone is hungry and we are back to the grindstone pretty quickly on Friday night [against Glasgow].

“So there’s not much time to lick your wounds. You have to bounce back after a tough defeat. It’ll be nice to be back on the horse, at home in the RDS, and looking forward to it again.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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