Tight­head Fur­long stands up against All Blacks

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

WELLING­TON: Keith Wood and Brian O’Driscoll won a com­bined 191 caps for Ire­land and have been in­ducted into World Rugby’s Hall of Fame but in 18 ca­reer games against the All Blacks, they failed to reg­is­ter a sin­gle vic­tory.

Tadhg Fur­long, pic­tured, the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions’ 24-year-old tight­head prop, has al­ready beaten the world cham­pi­ons twice in four Tests over the last eight months.

And the Ir­ish­man is fully aware how for­tu­nate he is.

“I am in­cred­i­bly lucky,” said Fur­long, who played in Ire­land’s first vic­tory over the world cham­pi­ons in Chicago in Novem­ber and in the Lions’ 24-21 win on Satur­day in the sec­ond Test in Welling­ton.

“I looked back at when we were play­ing New Zealand in Chicago and there are a lot of peo­ple who played the All Blacks five or six times and never won.

“I’d never played them and ... to beat New Zealand in my first game of play­ing them, hav­ing known that so many play­ers ... leg­ends of the game, had never beaten them you feel lucky, priv­i­leged.

“To do it twice, even more so.” Fur­long, who made his de­but against Wales shortly be­fore the 2015 Rugby World Cup, ce­mented him­self as Ire­land’s first-choice tight­head dur­ing this year’s Six Na­tions tour­na­ment. The Wex­ford na­tive was highly touted be­fore the Lions tour be­gan and his rep­u­ta­tion has been en­hanced in New Zealand af­ter sev­eral bat­tles with All Blacks loose­head Joe Moody. Fur­long said the All Blacks tight five were not given enough credit, par­tic­u­larly in the north­ern hemi­sphere.

“The out­side world doesn’t give the All Blacks scrum the credit they de­serve,” he said.

“Be­lieve me they are a very, very strong unit.

“Some­times you’re just hold­ing on to get par­ity, es­pe­cially on your ball and it’s hugely com­pet­i­tive.”

The All Blacks bat­tled with 14 men for al­most 60 min­utes in the sec­ond Test af­ter Sonny Bill Wil­liams was sent off and did not score a try, with all of their side’s points com­ing from the boot of Beau­den Bar­rett.

Fur­long said the Lions would need to im­prove at Eden Park be­cause the All Blacks would be stung from de­feat.

“You al­ways fear the All Blacks in that if you don’t get your stuff sorted or man up and meet them head on, it’s a tough day at the of­fice.

“If that doesn’t hap­pen they’re go­ing to cut you to rib­bons in the wider chan­nels if you give them any space. Like­wise, they can score tries from any­where on the park,” he added.

“If none of that works, they’re just so damn con­sis­tent and good at hold­ing onto the ball. They’re so tough to beat and you have to keep at­tack­ing them. That’s eas­ier said than done.”

The sides se­lect their Match­day 23 to­mor­row. – Reuters

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