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Lions Origin Story: Furlong making New Ross RFC history

Lions Origin Story: Furlong making New Ross RFC history

Tadhg Furlong was one of the stars of the 2017 British and Irish Lions Tour of New Zealand, with the Wexford-born prop starting all three Test matches against the All Blacks.

And each of his performances were celebrated by the club where he began his rugby journey – New Ross RFC.

Canterbury will be offering Lions Origin Clubs – those teams who have produced a player who has gone on to play for the Lions – the opportunity to have their Canterbury kits personalised with the logo of the Lions Origin Club to proudly celebrate the achievement

The then-24-year-old made six appearances on the Tour in total, starting with a second-half substitute outing in the 13-7 victory over NZ Provincial Barbarians at Okara Park in Whangarei to get the Tour underway.

The Leinster man made his first start a week later in an Owen Farrell-inspired 12-3 victory over Crusaders, before making it three wins from his first three appearances with a 32-10 success against the Maori All Blacks in Rotorua.

Furlong then had time to prepare for everything the All Blacks would throw at him in the next three Tests, where he was in the starting XV on each occasion.

After the 30-15 defeat to start things off in Auckland, Furlong was impressive in the second Test in Wellington – part of a monumental defensive effort to keep the All Blacks from scoring a try in the 24-21 victory.

The Irishman was influential once again in the captivating 15-15 draw to round off the Tour and his displays were eagerly watched by those back home in New Ross.

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

The 27-year-old grew up down the road in the village of Campile and took his first steps into the game as a five-year-old, following in the footsteps of his father James by making New Ross Rugby Club his home.

The small County Wexford club, not far from Ireland’s south-eastern coast, could not have imagined that youngster would grow up to be by far their most famous son.

Over two decades later, Furlong –  who was coached by John Keenan and Sammy Bennett at New Ross and also played Gaelic football in his youth – has captured the imagination of Ireland fans with a host of hair-raising performances, in addition to his exploits in the famous red of the British & Irish Lions.

The Leinster ace’s combination of unyielding strength mixed with sensational fleet of foot for a 19-stone powerhouse have already endeared him to many, with his display in Ireland’s historic first-ever victory over the All Blacks in Chicago in November 2016 truly catapulting him into the stratosphere.

Furlong maintains a strong link with the place where he learned his trade and New Ross’ Maurice Quirke, formally the club’s youth coordinator, is keen to sing his praises, even if the prop tries to shun the limelight as much as possible.

“He’s our first everything – our first pro, our first Ireland international and our first Lion,” said Quirke. “He’s actually very shy. He likes to hide from the attention.”

“He came back to the club for a sponsors’ day in the November just after Chicago, so everybody wanted to ask him about that.

“But when he could, he slinked off outside and was throwing a ball around with a couple of six-year-olds.

Tadhg came back in again and obviously, someone else then started quizzing him about it, so he went missing again to go and play some more as soon as he could.

“He’s very, very grounded – his parents would never have let him get cocky or anything like that. He’s such a nice guy and he’s always so calm.

“He’s always happy to come to the club for anything, like training with the kids, a dinner-dance or giving out awards.”

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON

Furlong made headlines by donating an Ireland jersey from that famous New Zealand triumph in the United States to his old school – Good Counsel College – and his physical prowess, which would go on to be further honed by his work on the family farm, was evident from the first time he turned up at New Ross.

“He came to the club when he was five years old and right from the start, he stood out,” added Quirke. “His father was a youth coach at the club and Tadhg came along with him.

Tadhg Furlong’s father James, pictured front row, second-from-left

“His dad never coached him at New Ross, but I bet he coached him in the car and in the garden.

“His father was a tight-head prop as well, but he was less forgiving than Tadhg and a lot more old school.

“The first thing you noticed was how big he was for his age. He was so physically strong and he played an age group up pretty much straight away.

“He was brave and he was always prepared to push himself and put his body on the line.”

Canterbury will be offering Lions Origin Clubs – those teams who have produced a player who has gone on to play for the Lions – the opportunity to have their Canterbury kits personalised with the logo of the Lions Origin Club to proudly celebrate the achievement

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