Tadhg Furlong lockdown tale a reminder of how fortunate he was to make Lions Tour
"It's big boys' rugby, isn't it?"
Tadhg Furlong is right where he wants to be. He is the presumptive Lions tighthead for the First Test against South Africa, on Saturday.
Presumptive, that is, to everyone but the man himself. With Kyle Sinckler and Zander Fagerson his competition for the No.3 jersey, Furlomg is taking nothing for granted.
"Everyone’s a little bit on edge," he says. "We’re into the nitty-gritty of the tour now and it means a lot to people so everyone is just waiting to see how it pans out if you are in or out.
"You can feel it a small bit. Yeah, definitely from this morning, a small little bit of mood that there is, there is that bit of nervousness there."
"You don't know, really," he admits when asked about his Test chances. "You don’t know what the coaches are thinking and the rest of the tightheads have played very very well and it’s up in the air. See how we go."
It is only when Furlong is asked about improvements to his game does he touch on a lockdown struggle, and brings us all back to how fortunate he was to get back playing in time to make the tour.
When rugby returned in Ireland, after the first Covid-enforced lockdown eased up, Tadhg Furlong was not back playing. Back issues had flared up during lockdown and caused other issues and niggles.
It got so bad that Leinster stopped provided the weekly updates and had him listed as a long-term absentee. 2020 was tough for the Wexford native but 2021 saw him get back on to the field and, gradually, get back to his best.
Asked what it would mean for him to be involved in the Test Series with the Springboks, Furlong says:
"It means so much. Not to get personal about it but I have been through a rough year with injury, etcetera, and there is always a light at the end of the tunnel where you are trying to get on a Lions tour and to do something special with this group of players."
The Scotland game, and the following game against England, confirmed to us all that Furlong was back to his best. Over at Murrayfield, he was even side-stepping Scotland backs.
To Furlong, that was not just a bit of fun but an evolution to his game that he worked hard to see through. "I remember during lockdown there were a lot of Lions games on, and I was watching Lions 2017," he says.
"I looked back and kind of thought you weren’t doing a whole lot in the game, you were working hard, kick chase, hitting rucks hard - but there wasn’t whole lot going on apart from the set piece and hitting the rucks hard - I like to think that I have added a bit to my game.
"I am certainly not there where I can be regarding certain aspects but that is part of being rugby player; you are always trying to push it on, drive on and get that little bit better."
The Lions team to face the world champions is named on Thursday but the wider squad may not their fate a day or two sooner. Furlong is the man most are backing to start at tighthead but, until that is confirmed by Warren Gatland, he is taking nothing for granted.
LISTEN TO EPISODE 5 OF HOUSE OF RUGBY'S LIONS SHOW