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February 28, 2021

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British and Irish Lions star with a head for figures

Ireland prop Tadhg Furlong kept himself busy during a year out of rugby by studying accountancy but the number he is focusing on is Ireland’s first win in this year’s Six Nations.

The return of the 28-year-old British and Irish Lions star has been a rare bright spot for a side that travels to Italy this weekend desperate to atone for defeats to Wales and France.

Andy Farrell’s men are firm favorites to win in Rome yesterday as they seek to avoid losing their first three matches in the tournament for the first time since 1998, when it was still the Five Nations.

Furlong, a farmer’s son from Wexford in southeast Ireland, feels ready even though he has had barely any game time over the past 12 months.

The last time he started for Ireland was against England in February last year — before a frustrating run of injury problems kept him on the sidelines.

The Leinster prop, who came on as a replacement against Wales and France, said he never expects to last a whole match, having played the full 80 minutes just once in his career.

But he is a veteran of 49 Tests — 46 for Ireland and three for the Lions.

Furlong has played a pivotal role in two historic wins over New Zealand and the 2018 Grand Slam under previous head coach Joe Schmidt. His proud parents, Margaret and James, were in Twickenham the day Ireland sealed the Grand Slam.

Furlong dabbled with Gaelic games growing up, impressing at hurling, but said his robust figure was probably best suited to the rugby pitch.

Ireland’s morale has been lifted by welcoming back the man who was key to the Lions’ drawn series with then world champions New Zealand in 2017. He admits he struggled to adapt to kicking his heels while he was out of action as “you’re still in that performance mindset where you want to go out on the pitch.”

“When it goes into that longer-term picture, the more it was a holistic view which did not come naturally because I suppose you’re so used to training,” he said.

Leinster players have accrued a reputation for being the glamor boys of the Irish set-up — former stars Jamie Heaslip and Rob Kearney have opened boutique bars in Dublin.

But Furlong is keen to return to the farm when he can.

“It was quite light-hearted on the farm,” Furlong said. “Mucking around with the father, or out batting a hurling ball off the back wall.

“It was normal for me, but a bit different to some of the rugby lads and how they would have grown up.”

Furlong faces four more years of his accountancy course as he looks to a future beyond rugby.

“I started doing my accountancy exams, which is a tough slog but, again, it gives you something in lockdown times,” he said.

“When you leave training you’re not just twiddling your thumbs or watching a TV series on Netflix.

“I passed an exam there anyway so I’m delira (delirious).”


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