MUNSTER VS LEINSTER on Stephen’s Day will be the perfect way for rugby fans to recover from their food/drink Christmas Day hangovers.
The players can’t enjoy the festivities as much as an ordinary reveller, but that doesn’t mean they have to restrict themselves to a salad while their families ravenously devour Christmas turkeys.
Or at least Leinster’s young tighthead Tadhg Furlong isn’t planning on skipping the feast. After getting some decent results in the weekly fitness test, Furlong is happy to allow himself some leeway on Christmas Day – he is a growing tighthead, after all.
“I had a scan there and I was pretty happy with the results so I might have an extra slice of Turkey with my dinner on Christmas day,” Furlong laughed.
“But if I’m involved in the Munster game – it is a day after Christmas day – so I can call it carb-loading and have a few extra spuds on my plate.”
It is a testament to how Furlong has played this year – both in his starts and his cameos off the bench – that he is in the mix to play in such an important derby.
The injury to fellow tighthead Marty Moore gave Furlong a chance, and the Wexfordian has seized it with gusto. Furlong says that the astronomical rise of Moore and Jack McGrath last season has inspired him to make the most of his opportunity.
“I got a few games on the back of the injury to Marty Moore but I am happy, I’m happy to plug away and get minutes and more experience,” Furlong said.
Given Furlong’s size, it is easy to picture him causing carnage at scrum time as a teenager in youth rugby. Transitioning to professional scrums can be tough for any prop – Cian Healy was infamously substituted in the first half of a Heineken Cup semi-final – and Furlong says that every game gives him a little more of an idea about how to tackle the next one.
Furlong is in line to feature against Munster on St Stephen’s Day. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO
“It is an experience and you learn and some days you have to take in on the chin that you aren’t going to have a good day,” Furlong said.
Furlong was one of a few young players invited into the Ireland training set-up during the autumn to experience what an international camp is like. It was another reward for his performances during the season but he is not getting carried away just yet, insisting that his sole focus is on contributing to Leinster at the moment.
However, he also acknowledged how enjoyable the experience was and how much he gained from the exposure.
“It was good to meet people from other provinces and see how they work,” Furlong said.
For years the tighthead position was a source of great discomfort for Irish rugby fans, with a stark drop-off from Mike Ross to the second choice. But with the emergence of Moore and Furlong among others, the outlook is much more reassuring.
Furlong says that although the tightheads in the Leinster squad are competitive, they are also friends and eager to help each other out.
“All the tightheads get on really well and bounce ideas off each other on what is going wrong and what is going right,” Furlong said.
“We are very vocal with each other and it is great to get an ear of someone with his [Mike Ross] experience and Marty Moore as well.”
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