Whether it is his place in the pecking order of tighthead props or the size of his car, Tadhg Furlong’s burgeoning reputation is difficult to ignore.
Things have changed quickly for the Wexford prop in these last 12 months, from a debut Six Nations as Mike Ross’s back-up to a 2017 campaign which begins with the 24-year-old secure as first-choice number three and being touted as a nailed-on for the British & Irish Lions.
In between, he has also upgraded his sponsored car from a Renault to a four-wheel drive Jaguar.
“I was driving a Renault last year,” Furlong said yesterday as the build-up to Saturday’s tournament opener against Scotland at Murrayfield ramped up with a full training session. “Look, to be honest with you, it just came about, the whole Jaguar thing. It’s just a local fella back home who went to my school, from the parish over, who said: ‘Would I be interested?’ and I said: ‘Of course I would.’ There’s not a whole lot else to it. It’s not as if I’m after changing my lifestyle or I’m after changing. Not at all. I don’t think you’d be allowed to, either, do you know what I mean, in a place like this. Even the lads back home, they’d be first on your case. I absolutely don’t think so.”
Furlong applies the same principles to his professional life, be it with Leinster or Ireland. His expected 12th cap this Saturday will be just his fourth start, the changing of the guard from Ross to the younger tighthead occurring during last June’s series in South Africa, where he came of age against the Springbok front row at Ellis Park in the second Test. By the time the two November Tests against New Zealand and a third against Australia were on the horizon, there was only one man for the job.
“I was ticking along nicely,” he said in reference to his Test career to that point last summer. “I took a lot of confidence from that South Africa tour. When you are coming in from the outside, you might come in for a game or two or just be training.
“To go from that to playing consistently, three games on the bounce, you learn a lot about yourself and your preparation, looking after your body.
“The way Test matches are, they take so much out of you physically, mentally, emotionally. It is building that up to a Test game and then there’s just that sudden spike and drop off after it.
“It is about managing that, to pick it up off base level, eke your way into Test match week again. It is something that is tough and takes time to adjust to. I learned a lot from that tour to South Africa, especially coming to the end of the season, playing three big games away from home.
“Performances-wise, I was pretty happy with how we went over there. It gives you the confidence to launch yourself into the new season.”
Not that Furlong is taking his position for granted. He recognises that getting ahead of oneself is not acceptable nor tolerated by his peers.
“In the grand scheme of things, I still have a lot to learn. That is natural for a 24 year-old tight-head. It is dangerous if you start thinking you have this whole thing figured out, because I definitely don’t. With the experience — I still don’t have a massive amount of it compared to some of the lads — it breeds confidence that you know how it works. You know how training works. You know what’s required of you. Away from that there, you can just focus on getting your role right, getting your job right.”
That he has been getting his job right, and wonderfully so if his performances last November are a guide, has resulted in all that Lions talk, but Furlong feels he needs no extra motivation other than to help Ireland succeed.
Does he think about the Lions?
“Not at all. When you have weeks like this, it is a big enough occasion, in itself. There is so much on your mind, so many things to get right. You don’t have time to think about anything else, really.
“You have to have your body right, your details right, leading into the match.
“I don’t know if I feel pressure. It sounds boring and repetitive but, the way it is, you just focus on your own job, your own role, what you can contribute to the team, doing your basics well.
“If you get ahead of yourself in this environment, you would be cut down pretty soon.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved