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Dublin: 8 °C Tuesday 13 November, 2018
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A tackle that shows just how important Tadhg Furlong is to Leinster

The Ireland international is ludicrously mobile for a tighthead prop.

SECONDS UNTIL HALF time, with Leinster having conceded a second try to Montpellier only minutes before, and Tadhg Furlong produces an absolutely crucial tackle.

We are at the stage where the tighthead prop’s feats of mobility and skill are hardly a surprise anymore but, even by his own standards, it was a sublime moment from Furlong.

Benjamin Fall had won the aerial battle over Rob Kearney in the Leinster half and Ruan Pienaar’s intelligent kick pass had found Frans Steyn in space wide on the left, the centre taking Jordan Larmour’s tackle and offloading inside to Nemani Nadolo.

The hulking Fijian wing might have expected to scorch clear for a try that could have utterly changed the course of the game, but Furlong was on hand.

Furlong

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Furlong is one of the players who is changing rugby, or at least our expectations of what a tighthead prop can and must do on the pitch.

Excelling at the set-piece is a prerequisite, of course, but someone like Furlong offers so much more. His passing and decision-making are key strengths, but the mobility on display here is another important factor.

It’s a feat of work rate and fitness too, particularly when we rewind the tape to see how much ground Furlong has covered, also taking into account the fact that this tackle comes on the stroke of half-time when fatigue has accumulated in every player.

By the time Furlong makes his tackle, the ball has essentially been in play for 1 minute and 24 seconds, if we ignore a quickly-taken lineout by Montpellier. It might not sound like a huge amount of time but at the end of the half, it certainly places players under stress.

As we see below, Furlong makes the initial tackle off Ross Byrne’s restart following Montpellier’s second try through Yacouba Camara.

Tackle

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From there, Furlong has no direct physical involvement in the game until his tackle on Nadolo, but he does have to cover considerable ground.

First, he must retreat back into Leinster’s half as they fail to control an Aaron Cruden garryowen, allowing Montpellier to regain possession of the bouncing ball.

1

Next, Furlong must offer up linespeed as Leinster look to win back some metres.

He bursts up in midfield, getting all the way back up beyond Montpellier’s 10-metre line.

2

A bounce of the ball along the ground and a long Cruden skip pass mean Montpellier get the ball to the far left side, however.

Now Furlong has to turn and move at pace back into Leinster’s half.

3

Isa Nacewa tackles Steyn out in that 15-metre channel, allowing Leinster’s defence to reset.

Montpellier opt to kick wide to their right through Cruden on the very next phase, ensuring another retreat for Furlong, albeit shorter this time.

4

Leinster kick out of their defensive zone through Jamison Gibson-Park, before Pienaar fires another kick back down at them.

In that time, Furlong has worked back up beyond Leinster’s 10-metre line.

5

Furlong looks like he is hurting at this point, his lungs on fire and his legs feeling heavy. For the first time, he almost stops moving, expecting the ball to finally go into touch and provide a break.

Byrne does fire the ball into touch with another kick, but Montpellier throw it back into play within a second as Timoci Nagusa takes it quickly.

Again, this ensures Furlong has to advance up the pitch all the way to Montpellier’s 10-metre line in case the French side look to move the ball wide to their left.

6

But Cruden, having received the quick throw-in, kicks again.

And yet again, Furlong must motor back down the pitch as Fall goes up against Kearney in the air and regains possession for Montpellier.

7

Again, the pain is evident in Furlong as he shifts back downfield, pushing his fitness to the limit to get into position for his team-mates.

Fall wins possession for Montpellier in the air and after they get a lightning-quick recycle of the ball on the ground, Pienaar sends his excellent cross-field kick out to Steyn on the left.

As that kick flies over Furlong’s head and forces him to turn, he has the awareness to pick up Nadolo [circled in red below] coming up the pitch in support of Steyn.

Even with his lungs at bursting point, having covered so much ground since his initial tackle on Fall, Furlong digs deep to find another spurt of work rate.

8

Furlong picks up his speed again and arrives with perfect timing to tackle Nadolo just as he receives the ball, negating the possible effect of a big fend from the Fijian wing.

The tackle is excellent in the circumstances and Furlong also intelligently holds Nadolo down on the ground after the tackle, preventing him from instantly getting back to his feet to pick the ball up again – as he appears to be keen to do.

Even in this time of extreme fatigue, Furlong pays attention to the details.

Josh van der Flier, another who has worked hard, scoops up the ball and then we see Furlong put the icing on the cake from a work-rate perspective.

Nadolo has got back to his feet and burrows in looking for a turnover at the breakdown, but Furlong continues to work too, getting back to his feet and hammering into Nadolo, before turning to a dynamic croc roll to remove the huge Montpellier man.

Ruck

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Still, Leinster need to clear the ball to touch for half time and another 22 seconds later, Furlong is required to carry as they run the clock into the red.

He does the job with a minimum of fuss, presenting the ball back cleanly and Leinster are able to get to the half-time break without conceding again.

As if to sum it up, Furlong greets Luke Pearce’s whistle for the end of the half by briskly jogging towards the changing rooms. No minor psychological advantages for the opposition here.

Jog

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All in all, it’s an impressive feat of work rate from Furlong, who is a key point of difference for Leinster. His mobility, fitness, speed and desire to work hard are all cornerstones of his game, providing the foundation for the rest of his skills to flourish.

Many tightheads simply wouldn’t have got to Nadolo in this instance, but Furlong is different to the rest of his peers.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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