Tadhg Furlong: Ireland will treat Romania with the respect they deserve in World Cup opener

Prop looking forward to playing with Leinster secondrow Joe McCarthy who makes his World Cup debut

“What’s pressure?,” Tadhg Furlong asks rhetorically.

There is little sign of it in the team hotel. Just arrived in the city of Bordeaux from the team base in Tours, a two-hour train journey away, Furlong understands that facing Romania, a team that Georgia beat 56-6 and Italy beat 57-7, brings its own kind of pressure.

It’s different to what South Africa or the All Blacks will load on a team but it’s pressure nonetheless as Ireland face their first Rugby World Cup opponents on Saturday.

“You treat any game on its merits don’t you and what the opposition brings,” says the Irish tighthead prop.


“We treat them with the utmost respect because they deserve it. It’s a huge game for them just as it’s a huge game for us. We’ve done our analysis and irrespective of what they do you always try and put your performance out there, then you can counteract their strengths.”

It will be Furlong’s first World Cup start with Joe McCarthy in the second row. McCarthy’s tournament debut will give him a taste of Romania’s tough up-front game, an aspect of their rugby in which they pride themselves.

Despite his relative inexperience it’s difficult to find a player who has anything but praise for the big Leinster forward. The fact that just his fourth Test match is coming in a World Cup pool game reflects the confidence coach Andy Farrell has in his ability.

Furlong’s voice is no different from the chorus of approval chiming in from the rest of the squad.

“Joe’s a big oul man, you know,” he says. “He’s well put together. He’s strong. He likes his scrum. Like a lot of our secondrows do to be fair. Yeah, he’s a good young fella. He wants to learn. He wants to listen. It’s been great working with him.”

Rob Herring, who will start against Romania between Furlong and loosehead prop Andrew Porter, is equally effusive about the New York-born 22-year-old.

“Yeah, that’s the big thing there, his power and size. Having him scrumming behind you is unbelievable. For a young guy he’s really honed his craft at scrum time, and he’s consistently delivering massive work behind us.

“So, I’m excited, and all the front-rowers are excited, to have him behind us. I think just his athleticism around the park as well. He makes big moments with his carries, and I think for a guy his age he’s a very mature player.

“And like Garry [Ringrose] said, he’s a great person off the pitch. He’s always got these witty jokes for us and great to have around the squad.”

It is Furlong’s third World Cup. He made his Ireland senior debut in August 2015 against Wales in a warm-up game for the 2015 tournament and managed to force his way into the squad. He is one of the players Farrell will look to for what he termed as the “full steam ahead” phase for Ireland.

Farrell also knows that when the team is playing well Furlong comes alive and is terrifically eye-catching. Almost like a weathervane, when fans see the prop in the green shirt stepping opponents and looking for the try line, the rest of the Irish team are generally on the same page.

“It’s a good group and we’ve gone on the journey,” he says of the run in that ended with a Grand Slam in the Six Nations and began again in August with a win over Italy to keep the winning run alive.

“I always find it hard when we get asked about what it’s like in your first World Cup, your second World Cup and compare and what’s the difference. The difference is time and the difference is the group and there is a new coaching staff in here.

“It’s very difficult to compare. We live in a little fishbowl and we are week-by-week, month-by-month a lot of the time. It’s very hard to reflect fully. What I would say about now is, it’s a settled enough group and everyone gets on very well.”

Given the time together that’s a bonus, especially now with game faces on.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times