Rory Best admission about Tadhg Furlong on Lions Tour shows how far he's come
Two years after his Test debut, Tadhg Furlong has nine starts for Ireland. Such was his rapid rise that a 100-Test veteran was hoping to get as many playing minutes as possible with him.
This time last year, Furlong was not an Ireland regular. He was in contention for the No.3 jersey but was by no means a lock for the big games ahead, against New Zealand [twice] and Australia.
By the end of November 2016, he seemed destined for the Lions Tour. By the time the 2017 Six Nations was wrapped, he was pencilled in as a Test starter to face the world champion All Blacks. Start he did, in all three Tests, and he did himself proud.
Rory Best was a guest on The Hard Yards and spoke about how he just wanted a chance, in New Zealand, to play in a Lions front row with the world-class tighthead.
Best did a sterling job at captaining the Lions' midweek side but admits he knew early in the tour that he might not be getting a Test look-in.
"You get a feeling reasonably early and the front row is probably the easiest place to see it - whether that was pre-designed or whether it just happened to fall," he commented.
"Ultimately, you want to be in the same team as Tadhg because Tadhg was the one that was guaranteed to start - as long as he didn't have some absolute shockers, you just knew with his form, the way he was playing and just the type of player he is.
"Obviously, from my own selfish point of view, I'm used to playing alongside him. In those scenarios, you want to be playing with the people you know.
"That was a frustration with 2013 [Lions Tour to Australia], that I never got to play with Paulie [O'Connell] and with him calling the lineout. I'd know him calling.
"This time around, you got a sense early on. You'd look forward and judge selections... you want to be involved in the Saturday game [a week out from the First Test] and not the midweek game. You want to get named on the bench but you get named on the bench a couple of days later and think, 'Right, I'm not going to be involved this Saturday and I'll have to play the next midweek'."
Having played in an Ireland front row that had seen off the ABs, Australia and, in the Six Nations, England, Best would have dearly loved to play with McGrath and Furlong but it was not to be. Saracens' Jamie George seemed destined for the No.2 jersey early doors.
Best looked at the front row that started against the Crusaders - McGrath, George and Furlong - and read the tea leaves. He did not sulk for a moment, in fairness, and was a midweek warrior.
Amazing, though, that Best was certain that Furlong - 24 years of age and full of promise - was the one Lions' front-rower he needed to be playing with to get a Test look-in.
The rise has been rapid bur Furlong has taken it all in his stride.