herald

Saturday 24 June 2017

Props McGrath and Furlong out to anchor Leinster in Lyon

Leinster’s five British & Irish Lions who were named in the squad Seán O’Brien, Jonathan Sexton, Jack McGrath, Robbie Henshaw and Tadhg Furlong. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Leinster’s five British & Irish Lions who were named in the squad Seán O’Brien, Jonathan Sexton, Jack McGrath, Robbie Henshaw and Tadhg Furlong. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Leinster's five British & Irish Lions will have to play a leading role in Lyon to take Clermont-Auvergne out of their comfort zone in The Champions Cup semi-final on Sunday.

Out-half Jonathan Sexton, centre Robbie Henshaw and flanker Seán O'Brien will be central to the game plan.

They know better than anyone they will be going nowhere without the platform provided by the front-five.

The Lions scrum coach Graham Rowntree identified Rory Best's two front row colleagues Jack McGrath and Tadhg Furlong when asked with who he was most looking forward to working with this summer.

"With my speciality around the scrum, it would be those Irish props - I've been a big fan of watching them," he said.

When it came to a personal insight into McGrath and Furlong, Rowntree looked no further than former England coach Stuart Lancaster.

Proactive

"I was actually speaking to Stuart about them last week," he revealed. "He was 'bigging' them up to me, proactive scrummagers, but they can also play as well."

McGrath knows what it is like to come from behind in a position in which there is a lot of hype about England's Mako Vunipola.

Afterall, McGrath had the patience and the perseverance to overtake Cian Healy for club and country.

A special note of praise was reserved for the Wexford tight-head Furlong, currently in prime position to make the test team.

The 24 year-old will have to be at his best to resist the claims of English experience from Dan Cole and the energy and dynamism of Harlequins' Kyle Sinckler.

On all known form, Furlong is out in front and determined to stay there.

"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.

"The amount of times he will touch the ball, do the right things with the ball.

Work-Rate

"His work-rate is exemplary and I'm really looking forward to working with him."

In terms of Leinster, their strength in depth of resources has been diminished, but far from extinguished in the back row ahead of their highly anticipated clash with Clermont.

Even a physical unit like Rhys Ruddock is not guaranteed inclusion, despite the loss of Jamie Heaslip.

"It's probably going to be very fast and furious," he said.

"I think we're in a good place to play at that level and you have to be when you're playing against any of the big teams in Europe, especially one that can throw it around and play some rugby."

Former Leinster forwards coach Jono Gibbes, moving to Ulster at the end of the season, has put his fingerprints all over the French club.

"I think the way they're coached," said Ruddock.

"They're obviously a really well drilled team and it's hard to pick apart one specific flaw or something that we can really go after.

"We have to be really clever in how we approach the game and get the tactics right."

Promoted articles

Entertainment News