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Tuesday 31 January 2023 Dublin: 6°C
# Wexford Beef
'He was one of the standout players of the Six Nations, never mind the props'
The Lions are excited about what Tadhg Furlong can do against the All Blacks.

Murray Kinsella reports from Syon Park, London

IT’S FAIR TO say that Lions scrum coach Graham Rowntree is excited about working with Ireland’s front row, and tighthead prop Tadhg Furlong in particular.

The Wexford man has had a stunning season for Leinster and Ireland, rising to secure his place on the Lions tour to New Zealand this summer.

Tadhg Furlong Dan Sheridan / INPHO Furlong is in exceptional form. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Furlong will compete with Dan Cole and Kyle Sinckler for the number three shirt to face the All Blacks, while his compatriot Jack McGrath is up against Mako Vunipola and Joe Marler on the loosehead side.

There are fine options for Warren Gatland to choose from in the propping slots, but asked which new players he is most excited to work with, Rowntree pointed to the Irish pair.

“With my speciality around the scrum, it would be those Irish props – I’ve been a big fan of watching them,” said Rowntree this afternoon in London. “I was actually speaking to Stuart Lancaster about them last week.

“He was bigging them up to me, proactive scrummagers but they can also play as well.”

Rowntree was a Lions tourist as scrum coach in 2013 as well, with the set-piece playing an integral part in the dominant third Test win over the Wallabies.

New Zealand are regarded as a solid scrummaging side, but the likes of Furlong should give the Lions hope of excelling in this area again. Rowntree is particularly enthusiastic about working with the 24-year-old Leinster tighthead.

“I thought he was one of the standout players of the Six Nations, never mind the standout props,” said Rowntree. “He’s very impressive. He’s come from nowhere.

“High work rate, a big man. Excellent scrummager, but the amount of times he will touch the ball, do the right things with the ball. His work rate is exemplary and I’m really looking forward to working with him.”

Forwards coach Steve Borthwick, who will run the Lions’ lineout, is similarly positive about the impact Furlong can make in New Zealand.

Tadhg Furlong Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

“We talk about the fundamentals, the set-piece, and his scrum has been superb,” said Borthwick. “What’s also really noticeable is his work outside the set-piece. He moves really well in defence and attack, he’s comfortable carrying the ball, he’s a good defender.

“All those strengths make him a really important player for the challenges we face and he compliments what we’ve got at loosehead and tighthead, we’ve a really good mix.”

With the likes of Furlong in the Lions squad, Rowntree believes he has the props required to be dominant against the All Blacks’ scrum this summer.

“The set-piece is a huge part against New Zealand,” said Rowntree. “They’ve got one of the best lineouts in the world on both sides of the ball. Set-piece is an area where we’ve got to go down there with a mindset of being dominant.

“We want hooked ball to play with at the scrum. Look at our backline, look at our back row picking off the base – we need a dominant scrum to have playable possession.”

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