herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

Blues' turn to lean on Tadhg

Tadhg Furlong. Pic: Sportsfile
Tadhg Furlong. Pic: Sportsfile

It wasn't all that long ago that the only man that stood between Ireland and the edge of the cliff was John Hayes.

When the Munster tight-head walked away from the game, the unheralded and unappreciated Mike Ross stepped into the breach.

Never really wanted at Munster, the Fermoy man built his reputation at Harlequins before coming home to play for Leinster.

The Blue province finally had a cornerstone they could rely on to lock down the scrum and set the foundation for all the fancy stuff.

The baton has been taken up by 24-year-old Tadhg Furlong in the last month, building on the impression he made in South Africa by standing out against New Zealand and Australia.

The problem for Leinster is that Mike Ross was on the field for no more than three minutes against Zebre in the PRO12 when he tore his hamstring badly at the beginning of November.

The price to be paid was estimated at somewhere between ten and twelve weeks, removing Ross from the back-to-back Champions Cup matches against Northampton's pack, spearheaded by England captain Dylan Hartley. The 36-year-old "had a rescan of his hamstring injury last week" to register the progress made since then.

The original period of rehabilitation was confirmed, more or less, making Ross very doubtful for Montpellier (January 15) at home and Castres (January 22) away for rounds five and six in January.

Export

The export of Martin Moore means Michael Bent, who played against Scarlets last Friday, is the only tight-head left on the roster with experience at that level.

Furlong has had to carry a heavy workload this month before turning his focus to Europe.

Leinster will know how precious a cargo he has become in their ambition to make their way back to the summit of the Europeancompetition.

"I've only started four games for Ireland, two Heineken Cup games for Leinster," he warned.

The difference between Furlong and Hayes and Ross is that they were seasoned, experienced men when the time came for them to take Ireland forward.

Woe betide Leinster should Furlong fall foul of injury any time soon.

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