Tadhg Furlong willing to take chance in Ireland’s frontrow
Prop bedding in well to international set-up but not willing to take anything for granted
Wexford native Tadhg Furlong has won all his four Ireland caps from the replacements bench. Photograph: AFP.
The likelihood is that Tadhg Furlong will win his fifth cap on Saturday in Paris and, like his previous four, it will be off the bench. His fourth, last Sunday against Wales, maintained his average time on the pitch to date at 16 minutes. He’s a 23-year-old prop. Easy does it.
Yet as he points out, like himself, the two starting Welsh props last weekend, Rob Evans and Samson Lee, are also 23 and like Furlong, played in the IRB Under-20 World Championships in South Africa in 2012 when Wales finished third and Ireland fifth.
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“But that’s the way sport is. You get your chance and you have to take it. I suppose getting your chance last weekend, it only spurs you on now and make you more determined to keep getting to that level and keep playing to that level.”
Lee was winning his 18th cap for Wales, and 12th as their starting tighthead, while Evans was making his second start in his fourth Test. A key difference, of course, is that Lee has played 67 times for the Scarlets, and this despite the ruptured Achilles’ tendon he suffered against Ireland last March.
Similarly, Evans has played 51 times for the Scarlets, including 14 games in the European Champions Cup. By contrast, Furlong’s 40 games for Leinster include just 15 starts, and only one of them in the European Cup.
Reflecting on his four Tests to date, Furlong says: “I got one at loosehead in England with three props on the pitch and one of them was packing down at six,” he noted with a wry smile in reference to Nathan White’s unlikely endgame in the Twickenham warm-up match last September.
“I got one cap against Wales, my first cap, which I was happy enough with,” he adds, of his debut in the first warm-up match against Wales at the Millennium Stadium.
“It was a good trot out. I suppose you don’t remember a whole lot from your first cap. This weekend I was happy. We were defending for a lot of the time I was on the park. You just try to get through a workload and fit into the system and do your job.”
The product of Wexford farming stock, New Ross RFC (where his father also played prop), Clontarf and the Leinster academy, Furlong has also benefitted from a year and a half in the Irish set-up.
“I suppose I got comfortable with the language, the terminology that we use here, the players, the surroundings, the way training goes, the daily routine. It was really helpful for me to come in and have that under my belt and not come in cold to a game week where you would be playing and all of that gets thrown on top of you. You would just have those extra things to worry about. It was good experience to get and, hopefully, it will stand to me.”
He is definitely one for the future, although ask him if he feels ready to start, and Furlong says: “Obviously I’d love to start for my country. If I’m given a shot or not, that’s another opinion, I don’t know. All I can focus on is every minute that I’m on the pitch that I put my foot forward as best I can.”
The French loosehead Eddy Ben Arous is only two years older, but has played over 100 times for Racing Metro and won his 13th cap last weekend against Italy.
“He’s a really good athlete for a loosehead. I suppose he goes against that general prop mode. There doesn’t look like there’s a pick on him. At scrum time he’s very dangerous. He’s obviously very explosive and he’s a big man, so yeh he’s definitely up there.”