Tadhg Furlong showed why he can be considered world's best with outstanding performance 9 months ago

Tadhg Furlong showed why he can be considered world's best with outstanding performance

The end of the rugby year usually means it's the business end of the Champions Cup pool stages but it's also a time for reflection.

Ireland enjoyed a tremendous season winning Six Nations and Grand Slam titles, as well as toppling the All Blacks in Dublin, but the team of the year roundups weren't as kind.

Ireland boasted seven players in the BT Sport team of the year. Four players in the Rugby World team of the year. Four players in the RugbyJOE team of the year, which, remarkably, World Player of the Year Johnny Sexton failed to make after more than 175,000 votes.

And while the likes of Sexton, James Ryan and Jacob Stockdale failed to make some teams, Furlong and front-row mate Cian Healy were perennial inclusions in all of them, and for good reason too.

The Leinster props were at their bustling, belligerent best on Saturday and it showed from the scrums to general play.

Furlong in particular was outstanding. He may have only made three carries and five tackles in 46 minutes of play but he won two huge scrum penalties and contributed some massive hits in defence for Leinster when they put on a brave defensive stand and held Bath out at the start of the second-half.

At one point you could see Furlong roaring at Luke McGrath to get out and fill out the numbers outside of him before he then sent himself crashing into a Bath ball carrier like a missile.

Down went the ball carrier and up went Furlong, getting back in the defensive line before heaving himself into another huge collision.

His physical gifts have been quite evident for a number of years now but he has made huge strides with his workrate in defence, his communication as a leader and his technical ability at the scrum.

His prowess in the front-row has not only become a strength for Leinster but also a weapon in attracting penalties as Furlong and Cian Healy continually punish opposition front-rows off the ball.

The Wexford prop has made noticeable improvements at the core elements of the game while his handling skills and passing continue to stick out as a strong point and really help open up the Leinster attack.

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen said after the game that Furlong had been struggling during the week and that he was taken off prematurely after a bit of a break following the November internationals.

"We took Tadhg off early because he had been struggling a bit during the week," said Cullen.

"You wouldn't have necessarily noticed during the first-half but he was involved in everything. A lot of guys came in last week after a little bit of time off and they struggled to get to the level of the game. The physical part of the game.

"It was a bit of a shock to some of them and they were definitely in a much better place this week I think which is a good reminder and you see this across the pools with the teams playing but yeah I thought Tadhg played well today."

To see an understrength Furlong power his way through scrums and throw himself into tackles with such reckless abandon brings you back to the one constant question with Leinster; how much better can they get?

Where does Furlong improve? Where does James Ryan improve? How much better can Dan Leavy and Jordan Larmour get?

They're good questions to have but as ever with Leinster the questions are usually answered on the pitch. Furlong just offered an exclamation point on Saturday.