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Furlong: I'm glad I've found voice in new leadership role



Tadgh Furlong

Tadgh Furlong

�INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Tadgh Furlong

It takes a lot to fluster Tadhg Furlong. The Wexford native doesn't take himself too seriously off the pitch.

On it, he is a different beast, which is perhaps why Andy Farrell felt it was a good idea to make him part of Ireland's new-look leadership group.

Most players would jump at the opportunity to become a more integral part of the squad, but Furlong took his time to mull it over when Farrell first approached him about it a few weeks ago.

Speaking up in team meetings isn't something that comes naturally to him, which isn't to say that he has never considered himself to be a leader.

At 27, Furlong is no longer a new kid on the block and while his first steps in the new role have been tentative, Johnny Sexton has been impressed by what his team-mate has brought to the party.

"It's the first time that I've been in a leadership group with him and he's been brilliant," the Ireland captain said. "Tadhg's got a great rugby brain for a prop. He's one of a kind, in terms of being a tighthead prop and having an ability to know what's happening in the game, even though his head is stuck in scrums and rucks.

"Off the pitch, he's got his finger on the pulse in terms of knowing the mood of the group. He's been outstanding since he's gone in. It's been good for him."

Furlong agrees that taking on more responsibility has meant that he is learning more about himself.

"Some of the stuff takes me massively outside of my comfort zone," Furlong admitted.

"Andy wants the team to really lead it and take responsibility and ownership. I like thinking about the game, I probably think about the game too much sometimes. It's nice to have that responsibility and a voice for the front-row."

Rory Best shone a light on Ireland's lack of leadership at the World Cup when he suggested that players should have spoken up more when things went awry.

Farrell has freshened up the leadership group as he looks to spread the load, and make everyone feel like they can chip in.

Furlong explained how he has been taken out of his comfort zone. He added: "Talking up in groups and stuff, if you're talking scrums, it's a very comfortable thing, you've been doing it for years.

"Some of the general things, outside that aspect of play, I would find that uncomfortable.

"Some of the really culture-based things, what we stand for, not just on the pitch but as a group, that would be something that's very new to me and something that challenges my thinking.

"That's good for me in some ways, not just sitting on a pillow at night trying to get to sleep and thinking how we're going to fix this or how we're going to fix that or what's going on with defence. It's a nice break away from it and it stimulates your thinking.

"It's something I felt I could add value to, but at the same time you're looking into a black hole because you've not done it.

"Before we went to Portugal, we turned up for the meeting and you're not really sure how it works. Of course I was apprehensive, putting yourself out there."

Furlong put in a huge shift in the win over Scotland and ended up playing most of the game due to the injury to Dave Kilcoyne.

The good news is that Kilcoyne has passed his return-to-play protocols, while Furlong has come through training this week without any issues with his calves.

Now being pushed by Andrew Porter, there is a sense that Furlong can hit even greater heights.

"I think I am in a really good spot at the moment," the tighthead added. "The engine feels good, the body feels good. Injury-wise, I'm good. I'm just really looking forward to the weekend."

Teams for Ireland v Wales at Aviva Stadium (Tomorrow, 2.15pm)

Ireland: J Larmour (Leinster); A Conway (Munster), R Henshaw (Leinster), B Aki (Connacht), J Stockdale (Ulster), J Sexton (Leinster, capt), C Murray (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), R Herring (Ulster), T Furlong (Leinster), I Henderson (Ulster), J Ryan (Leinster), P O'Mahony (Munster), J Van Der Flier (Leinster), CJ Stander (Munster).

Replacements: R Kelleher (Leinster), D Kilcoyne (Munster), A Porter (Leinster), D Toner (Leinster), M Deegan (Leinster), J Cooney (Ulster), R Byrne (Leinster), K Earls.

Wales: L Halfpenny (Scarlets); G North (Ospreys), N Tompkins (Saracens), H Parkes (Scarlets), J Adams (Cardiff); D Biggar (Northampton), T Williams (Cardiff); W Jones (Scarlets), K Owens (Scarlets), D Lewis (Cardiff), J Ball (Scarlets), A W Jones (Ospreys, capt), A Wainwright (Dragons), J Tipuric (Ospreys), T Faletau (Bath).

Replacements: R Elias (Scarlets), R Carre (Saracens), L Brown (Dragons), A Beard (Ospreys), R Moriarty (Dragons), G Davies (Scarlets), O Williams (Gloucester), J McNicholl (Scarlets).

Belfast Telegraph