Tuesday 12 December 2017

Furlong not a mile away

"Quarterback" Sexton could play against Treviso

Leinster’s Tadhg Furlong, pictured speaking at a press conference yesterday, will be looking to move past Mike Ross and Marty Moore
Leinster’s Tadhg Furlong, pictured speaking at a press conference yesterday, will be looking to move past Mike Ross and Marty Moore

Tight-head Tadhg Furlong can't wait to get to play with Leinster's "quarterback of rugby" Jonathan Sexton.

The return of Leinster prolific prodigal son will bring a real focus on the detail of the game, possibly as soon as next Sunday when Leinster make their way to Benetton Treviso in the PRO12 League.

The fact the fly-half was on the practice pitch yesterday came as good news.

Coach Leo Cullen had all hands, heads and limbs on deck save for hooker Aaron Dundon, making his way back from a concussive blow against Glasgow on Friday.

While Cathal Marsh has stepped up considerably this season, Leinster's leading ten will be eager to rediscover the feeling for playing in the blue of his province.

"He's the ten. He's the quarter-back of rugby. All the play goes through him," said Furlong.

"I suppose with Johnny you have a firm understanding of where you stand and it's well-documented if you're not standing in the right place you get shouted.

"You have a fair idea of where you're going around the pitch.

"He's very verbal. He's very easy to play outside. I suppose if you're a prop, you have to make it pretty simple for us," laughed the Wexford man.

"It just gives the team real clarity and direction."

Furlong, 22, has returned from the World Cup with a mission in mind to move past Ireland's number one Mike Ross and Marty Moore.

"I've probably come back as a player who understands the game more," he said.

"I was fifth prop over there, so in the training teams I would often slot in as a second-row or a number eight or a flanker or a winger," the smile breaking wide.

"I was slotting in and out on the defensive teams because I was an extra body so, from that end, I saw a lot more of the game and moves off set-pieces than I would have normally have if my head was still stuck in the scrum."

The 35-year-old senior scrum citizen has already made it known he intends to handle all-comers to his cornerstone.

Ross has set a standard at the scrum that Furlong has to emulate to hold out a reasonable chance of making his move.

"He has an unbelievable record in very big games of consistently performing well at the scrum," said Furlong.

"For me, that is my ultimate goal, to be in a place where I can go out and consistently play in big matches and scrummage well.

"That is the golden egg for every prop, every tight-head especially.

"Hopefully, over the next few months to years, I can start to build towards that and try to attain it."

There is respect, even a sense of brotherhood, among the front row union.

"I suppose we're in a unique position in that no one else really understands what we do on the pitch.

"The dialogue is quite open. There is no one trying to back-stab another. I think everyone's trying to help the team evolve.

"In order for your scrum to go well, your tight-head has to go well."

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