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Furlong backing Ireland to find their groove for Samoan battle

Knuckling down: Tadhg Furlong is confident Ireland will click
Knuckling down: Tadhg Furlong is confident Ireland will click
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

Having spent his previous World Cup as a yet-unproven fifth-choice young prop, four years on Tadhg Furlong is one of the men on whose broad shoulders Irish hopes now rest.

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One of a small handful of genuine world class operators at Joe Schmidt's disposal, his form of late has been a tick below the high standards he has set for himself in his devastating pomp when Lions Test caps and European Player of the Year short-listings came his way.

Not unlike Ireland themselves in many ways.

"Like, it's tough," he says of the challenges the side have faced so far. "Playing rugby at World Cups is tough.

"Teams, the way defences are now? It's tough going. Scrums rules change - it's how you adapt to them. I suppose I'm the same as everyone else really. There's a few little bits of the game that you'd like to tidy up.

"It feels like it's very, very nearly there but probably just hasn't clicked yet. It is hard to put your finger on it. You try to hold onto the ball a little bit better, go through a few more phases, get on to the front foot.

"I suppose when we play really well, we can be really clinical. We hold onto the ball really well and I suppose we just don't force it. Just knuckle down and stick to what you're good at and be very efficient at it.

"You don't get away from what worked for you in the past or the normal routine. You don't go rewriting the book.

"We're trying to get into our flow early in the week and bring a bit of intensity to the weekend and hopefully putting in the performance we need."

For all that the loss to Japan dented the confidence of both the playing group and supporters back home, Ireland's position remains straightforward. A bonus-point win against Samoa in Fukuoka on Saturday and they are guaranteed a place in the last eight regardless of what happens in the Japan and Scotland tie.

Even without the four tries, it would still take an unlikely confluence of events to see them become just the second team ever to go out having won three pool games.

Given that it's the All Blacks or the Springboks that await in the quarter-finals, the importance of winning the group rather than coming second has arguably never been less significant.

Still, Samoa remain an obstacle. While their loss to Japan at the weekend ended their own quarter-final hopes, it was a one-score game as late as the 74th minute.

"Physicality really, isn't it?" replied Furlong when asked what the sizeable Pacific Islanders are likely to bring. "They're big boys and they're quite impressive in the tight.

"In terms of some of their ball-carrying threats, their presence over the ball in terms of their attack, they have a fair bit of flair out wide and dangerous runners if they get it to them.

"It's going to be a massive challenge for us and for the forward pack and front-five especially to try to get on the front foot.

"You put yourself in their shoes and it is their last game in the World Cup, they have a lot to prove.

"They are a proud nation and I don't think any of the player group or staff here is thinking (that they're already eliminated)."

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