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Furlong relaxed over fate as Lions selections loom

By Nick Purewal

Tadhg Furlong insists he is happy to leave his British and Irish Lions chances in the lap of the selectors.

Lions boss Warren Gatland will pick his touring party for the summer's three-Test battle in New Zealand in April, leaving precious few further chances for the hopefuls to impress.

Fast-rising Ireland tighthead Furlong must surely have nailed down his place after a solid RBS 6 Nations to add to his impressive autumn series.

But the 24-year-old continues to take nothing for granted, and admitted he has effectively now stated his case. "Well what's done is done now isn't it?" said Furlong of his chances to prove his Lions prowess.

"I've a few days off now and then we're into the Champions Cup with Leinster. So you don't get too many chances to think about ifs buts and maybes.

"If it comes it comes, if it doesn't, it doesn't. You only get to throw so many punches whatever way."

Furlong showed up well again on Saturday as Ireland ground past England 13-9 to deny Eddie Jones' men a second-successive grand slam and an outright world-record 19th-straight victory.

England might have blown their third potential Grand Slam in Dublin since 2001, but Jones was quickly targeting a possible November meeting with back-to-back world champions New Zealand in November.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) is aiming to tee up an All Blacks clash at Twickenham this autumn, with Jones keen to cement the future.

Just as Ireland ended England's record run on 18 matches, so Joe Schmidt's side cut New Zealand down to size on the very same streak with their triumph in Chicago.

England boss Jones believes New Zealand are "there for the taking" for the Lions this summer, but Furlong would not be drawn into agreement. Leinster's scrum cornerstone did however admit improving standards across the Six Nations ought to boost the Lions' chances in the land of the long white cloud.

"The competition has been really tight, France have been playing well, Wales are on top of their game and England have had that year," said Furlong.

"And the standard of the games is so high, it drives players to new levels all the time."

Taskmaster Ireland boss Schmidt's attention to detail has often been branded forensic, but his side's much-vaunted gameplan hit roadblocks in both Scotland and Wales.

Those two defeats left Ireland facing losses to all three home nations rivals in one championship for the first time since 1998 - until pure home-ground fervour kicked in and sunk the English.

Wexford native Furlong remains adamant however that Ireland refused to draw motivation from the chance to ruin England's bid to rewrite the history books.

Ireland had continually detailed the "small margins" they felt cost them in Scotland and Wales - and now Furlong believes victory over England vindicated such assertions.

"It wasn't about Ireland spoiling the English party, we never talked about that," said Furlong.

Belfast Telegraph

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