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Rugby

20th Jun 2021

Tadhg Furlong’s mindset, heading into second Lions Tour, tells you all you need to know

Patrick McCarry

Tadhg Furlong

“You’ve got to put your shyness in your pocket.”

There is an easy confidence to Tadhg Furlong. It is nothing new, but it grows like another ring to a tree. He has an aura about him.

The British & Irish Lions have three tightheads in their squad for the tour to South Africa, but Furlong will be the Test starter. The only thing that will get in his way will be injuries.

Given what has happened to Andrew Porter – ruled out of the tour, and replaced by Kyle Sinckler, due to an injury – is the clear and present example of taking nothing for granted.

“It’s tough on Ports,” says Furlong from the Lions training camp in Jersey. “I only found out on social media, I didn’t know.

“I was absolutely on the floor for him because I know how hard he works and how diligent he is and how well he has performed all year.”

Taking Porter’s place is Sinckler, who was back-up tighthead to Furlong on the 2017 Lions Tour to New Zealand. The England prop will now link up with the Lions squad, early next week, after his Bristol side gave up a 28-0 lead to lose their Premiership semi-final to Harlequins.

“I get on well with Sincks and power to him,” says Furlong. “He had some adversity [missing out on the original squad] and I know he spoke about it. He’s on the rebound now and sport is like that sometimes. You’re competing, of course you are, but at the same time you want the team to do well.”

Furlong says he will be doing all he can to help Sinckler, and the other late arrivals to the Lions set-up, settle in and get ready for the tour.

“We have a lot to learn in terms of lineouts, set-piece, attack, defence and you try to get on the same page and help each other out, especially in these early days,” he says. “You’re not trying to do another fella over.”

When one of the journalists on our Zoom chat with Furlong mentions that Steven Kitshoff had, earlier that day, praised him, the Wexford native revealed a kinship with the Springboks loosehead.

“I first met Steven when we played in South Africa against their Under 20s team and I kind of kept in contact with him ever since, really.

“We toured there in 2016 with Ireland, I would have caught up with him, and they came over in the November of 2018.

“He’s done very, very well for himself, he’s such a big player for them, a power athlete, he’s physical, abrasive, strong in the scrum, he’s a bloody good player.”

The Lions are on a rest day after a week of training, media duties and bonding in Jersey. They head out to Scotland in a few days’ time and the tour really starts coming into focus. Furlong is cool as a breeze as he shares his philosophy in the early stages of another huge tour.

“It’s the start of it now, in reality,” he says. “We’re in it until the end of the tour, touch wood, barring injury and stuff like that.

“So just get amongst it, put your shyness in your pocket really, work hard and get to know each other and get the systems up and running.”

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