Tadhg Furlong was today confirmed as the Ireland captain for Saturday’s Bank of Ireland Nations Series game against Fiji in Aviva Stadium (KO: 1.00pm).
It will be the first time that Furlong will have captained Ireland at senior level.Speaking to media today from the Irish base in the National Sports Campus in Abbotstown, Furlong said, “it’s class, it’s class, it’s not something I ever thought was on my radar.
“Never even thought of it. I never even put the idea…you know when you dream as a young fella, you want to play for Ireland, you want to play for Leinster, you want to play for the Lions. I never even dreamed of captaining Ireland.”
With team captain Johnny Sexton still nursing an injury from the win against South Africa and likely to miss out on the match day 23 this weekend, Furlong will lead his country in front of a sold out Aviva Stadium.
“Look, I know it’s for a game. I know it’s not captaining your country week-in, week-out, but it’s still class. It’s still a class feeling.
“I know from people back home, they’ll be very proud etc. So it’s great.”The people back home are of course his father, James, mother, Margaret, and his extended family and friends in Campile, Co Wexford.
But the pride will spread well beyond that to the people in New Ross RFC, where he was first introduced to rugby.
To the people of Good Counsel, where he went to school. To the people involved with the South East Area in the Shane Horgan Cup where he first tasted representative rugby.
To the people of Clontarf FC where he cut his AIL teeth.
And even to the people of Whiddy Island, Cork where his mother Margaret is from and where he spent many a holiday.
They’ve all played a part.Furlong made his Ireland debut against Wales in the 2015 Guinness Summer Series before being named in the squad for the Rugby World Cup in 2015.
He featured against Romania in that tournament and went on to make his 6 Nations debut the following spring featuring off the bench against the Welsh.
In June 2016, Furlong replaced Mike Ross to help Ireland secure a famous victory over the Springboks in Cape Town and later that year would start in Chicago as Ireland recorded their first ever win over New Zealand.He started every game of the 2017 6 Nations Championships and has gone from strength to strength ever since for Ireland, going on to win 61 caps for his country and winning a Grand Slam in 2018.
Selected for the 2017 British & Irish Lions squad, Furlong was the starting tighthead for all three Test matches against New Zealand, and he followed that up with a second tour to South Africa last year.
Once again, he was the starting tighthead prop in all three tests for the second tour in a row.Furlong, who turns 30 next Monday, made his Leinster debut against Newport Gwent Dragons in November 2013 and has won 128 caps for his province, scoring ten tries.
He won the Champions Cup in 2018 and has also won four PRO14 titles.
He has been an ever present in blue, green and red and has the medals and the accolades to go along with the caps.
And now, he will captain his country. It won’t be the first time but it will be the first at senior level.“The last team I captained was the Irish U18s. That’s going back, boy.
“It was a lot of blood and guts, banging tables back then. I’ve been lucky to be involved in a lot of good teams with a lot of good captains, it’s trying to fit your way in and enjoy it as much as possible.
“I would have talked to Johnny, when you’re involved in the leadership group you get an idea of the inner workings of the week, of our lead into a game with meetings on Thursday and Friday. Faz (Andy Farrell) has been good, and just relying on the 10 and a few of the lineout callers, planning which way they want to go about their business.
“To be brutally honest with you, I’m a prop. If I’m playing, I’m playing for 50/60 minutes, and I’ve my head in the ground for most of the game. I think there’s a reason front rows, and props especially, aren’t captain all that often, it’s because of that and I think that’s the reality of it.
“Is it something I’d like to do (again)? I haven’t even thought of it. I didn’t even think it was on my radar. I just want to make the most out of the weekend.”
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Blair: “Collectively, we were just off it.”
The Italian side held on for a 24-17 win with Rhyno Smith’s late score the difference in a back-and-forth battle at Stadio Monigo.
“Yeah, it’s definitely disappointing,” said Blair. “We knew this was going to be a really tough game with the team that they picked.
“Benetton were excellent and managed the game really well after the red card. They were really smart. But I said to the players at half-time that the game was still in our hands.”
Benetton went down to 14 men in the 10th minute when debutant Matteo Minozzi was sent off for dangerous play after his boot – in the process of gathering a high ball – made contact with Wes Goosen’s face, leaving the winger with a nasty cut.
Edinburgh failed to capitalise on their numerical advantage however, with Benetton proving too shrewd in defence despite being a man down.
“We’ve seen it before, though, with red cards and how it can really galvanise a team. It brings emotion into it and gives them that backs-to-the-wall type of mentality,” continued Blair.
“But we’ve got to be better than that. We’ve got to see that as an opportunity. I think we waited and thought that (red card) was going to be the thing that won us game.
“But that wasn’t the case. It’s your physicality, your relentlessness nature of attack, persistence in defence, your smarts – that’s what wins you games. Collectively, we were just off it.
“I don’t think you can put it down to one thing. We always speak about what we want the perception of us to be from others.
“That perception is around the ruthless and clinical nature of our attack, as well as physicality in defence. We didn’t get that today.”
Edinburgh finish this block of fixtures without its Scotland internationalists having won two out of three road matches, with Saturday’s defeat to Benetton ending a three-match winning streak.
The capital side now turn their attention to Munster this coming Friday night (2 December, kick-off 7.35pm) in a match-up that sees Edinburgh return home to DAM Health Stadium for the first time in over a month.
“This period is an opportunity for the club. This group of players won away against Zebre and Cardiff, so there’s been some real positives.
“This was a tough game to come back to after the break for a few weeks. We were just off it in a couple of areas and that’s something we need to fix moving forward to next week.”
Timani returns to fitness as Cardiff name side to face Sharks
Lopeti Timani returns to the Cardiff line-up for the opening clash of their BKT United Rugby Championship double-header in South Africa.
With the Blue and Blacks kicking off their tour in Durban against Cell C Sharks on Sunday (KO 4.10pm), Tongan international Timani, who missed the home clash against Edinburgh last month, takes his place in the second row alongside Rory Thornton.
Captain Josh Turnbull will wear the number six jersey, with Thomas Young and James Botham completing the back row, while Rhys Carré, Liam Belcher and Dmitri Arhip form the front row.
Behind the pack Jarrod Evans and Lloyd Williams continue their partnership at half back. Rey Lee-Lo returns to the midfield for the first time since the away win over Scarlets, linking up with Max Llewellyn in the centre.
Finally, having made his URC debut in South Africa last season, Theo Cabango is again given the nod on the wing. Jason Harries occupies the opposite touchline, while Ben Thomas slots in at 15.
Cardiff director or rugby, Dai Young said: “We’re looking forward to testing ourselves against a quality team in the Sharks on Sunday.
“We were disappointed with our last game out here last season so we have plenty of motivation to put things right and we’ve shown we are heading in the right direction and we want to build upon that.
“It is important now that we keep that momentum and confidence and show we have learnt and developed from last season.
“We know what to expect from the Sharks and they are formidable at home but we are in a good place. We will need to perform at our best and if we do that then there is no reason why we cannot make a statement.”
Cardiff have named a six-two split on the bench, with youngsters Ellis Bevan and Mason Grady providing cover for the back-line.
Seb Davies is passed fit to feature, having been on the sidelines since mid-October, while there are further fire-power from the likes of Kristian Dacey, Corey Domachowski and James Ratti.
Cardiff will also take on Vodacom Bulls during their time in the Rainbow Nation, before turning their attention to Europe and the festive derbies.
Cardiff: Ben Thomas; Jason Harries, Rey Lee-Lo, Max Llewellyn, Theo Cabango; Jarrod Evans, Lloyd Williams; Rhys Carré, Liam Belcher, Dmitri Arhip, Lopeti Timani, Rory Thornton, Josh Turnbull (capt.), Thomas Young, James Botham
Replacements: Kristian Dacey, Corey Domachowski, Will Davies-King, Seb Davies, Gwilym Bradley, James Ratti, Ellis Bevan, Mason Grady
Unavailable for selection: Dillon Lewis, Josh Navidi, Taulupe Faletau, Tomos Williams, Rhys Priestland, Owen Lane, Willis Halaholo, Josh Adams, Liam Williams, Matthew Morgan, Jacob Beetham.
Internationals return for Munster interpro at Thomond Park
Six Connacht players who were with the Ireland squad in November have come into the starting lineup for tomorrow’s interpro with Munster in Limerick (k/o 7.35pm).
Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Cian Prendergast, Caolin Blade and Bundee Aki are all named in the starting lineup, as the squad aim to make it three straight wins in the BKT URC.
Denis Buckley joins Heffernan and Bealham in the front row while Josh Murphy is selected alongside Thornbury in the second row. Prendergast is named at blindside flanker, with Conor Oliver at openside and Jarrad Butler at number 8.
Captain Jack Carty continues at out-half while Tom Farrell partners Aki in the centre. The side is completed by wingers Alex Wootton and Byron Ralston, and full-back John Porch.
On the bench there’s a notable return for Shane Delahunt, who has recovered from an 8-month injury layoff for a potential first appearance of the season. The management team have opted for a 6:2 split, meaning Niall Murray, Oisin Dowling and Paul Boyle could all be called upon.
Commenting on the team selection, Director of Rugby Andy Friend says:
“Everyone had ten days off after the Ospreys game which I think was needed for coaches and players. Now that we have everyone back it’s all eyes on Munster for the start of an important ten week block for us, and we’re well positioned for these games going forward.
Munster away at Thomond Park is never an easy task but I thought we were close last year and the previous year we won there. You can’t just rock up to Thomond and think you’re going to win, you’ve got to work your backside off and bring an element of physicality along with accuracy in what you are doing”
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS MUNSTER RUGBY
Saturday 26th November, 19:35 @ Thomond Park
15. John Porch (66)
14. Byron Ralston (6)
13. Tom Farrell (83)
12. Bundee Aki (119)
11. Alex Wootton (37)
10. Jack Carty (184) (C)
9. Caolin Blade (154)
1. Denis Buckley (215)
2. Dave Heffernan (171)
3. Finlay Bealham (173)
4. Josh Murphy (5)
5. Gavin Thornbury (68)
6. Cian Prendergast (33)
7. Conor Oliver (47)
8. Jarrad Butler (100)
16. Shane Delahunt (117)
17. Peter Dooley (5)
18. Jack Aungier (38)
19. Niall Murray (40)
20. Oisín Dowling (31)
21. Kieran Marmion (215)
22. Conor Fitzgerald (57)
23. Paul Boyle (79)
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