James Haskell's first Lions Tour encounter with Tadhg Furlong was certainly unforgettable
- House of Rugby, Together with GUINNESS -
The Ireland international was a Lion but, according to James Haskell, was 'still building to the legend that he’s become'.
The British & Irish Lions throws together four leading rugby nations and asks them, in the space of seven weeks, to beat the very best the southern hemisphere has to offer. It also leads to some life-time friendships, and ones you may not ordinarily expect.
The Lions Tour to New Zealand, last summer, saw Windsor native and abrasive England flanker James Haskell strike up bonds with two Irishmen that possess what he refers to as "farmer strength" - Tadhg Furlong and Sean O'Brien.
Haskell's antics with O'Brien went viral during the tour, and they even recruited in New Zealand police officers for some of their video diary skits. They had good fun off the pitch but accounted themselves extremely well once the Test Series kicked off, sharing the trophy with a 1-1 draw.
Haskell joined host Alex Payne and former England Sevens star Rob Vickerman on House of Rugby and he shared a class story about his first proper encounter with Furlong.
Both Haskell and Furlong had previously clashed - in the colours of Wasps and Leinster, and in the Six Nations - but they had an early opportunity, on tour, to put their rivalries to one side.
Host Alex Payne brought up Furlong's immense performance for Leinster in last weekend's Champions Cup thrashing of Wasps, Haskell's old side. The 33-year-old smiled when the tighthead's name was mentioned and soon explained why:
"Obviously, I’d seen him play, before I met him on tour, and I’d played against him a couple of times. He was kind of coming through there, he was established, but he was still building to the myth that he’s become. Or legend, not myth! That’s rude. The legend that he’s become."
"I remember sharing a room with him on the flight between Australia and New Zealand," Haskell said. "We got in late... So anyway, we were actually staying at a hotel, an airport hotel, and I walked in the room.
"I’d not really met him before, and he looked at me, and he goes, ‘You alright?’ and I went, ‘Yeah!’
"And he went, ‘Do you need a hug?’
"I said, ‘Yeah, okay.’
"And we just had this embrace, and he gave me the loveliest hug I’ve ever had.
"It was just one of those moments where, you know, still, as a professional rugby player, as a 33 year-old man, you’re still sharing rooms with people you haven’t met. It’s an odd case of affairs, that you’re going to bed like, 'Night, Tadhg'.
"‘Night Hask.... Do you want a light on?’
"'No', and you just switch the lights off and go to sleep.
"But he gave me the loveliest hug, and he’s a lovely guy.
The pair were close from that moment on and Haskell was cheering the Irish prop on, in all three Tests, as he took the fight to the All Blacks in Auckland, Wellington and back in Auckland again.
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Episode one dissects Freddie Burns' howler, Leinster's dominance, England's injury crisis and everyone gangs up on poor old James Haskell.