Tadhg Furlong has praised the influence former Leinster and Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek has had on his career ahead of the Lions’ test series with the Springboks.
Ireland prop Furlong is currently on his second British and Irish Lions tour, and after starting all three tests against the All Blacks four years ago, the Wexford man is in pole position to again start in the tests against South Africa.
The 28-year-old has come a long way since he first made his debut for Leinster in 2013 and he is currently one of the most highly-rated props in the world.
Tadhg Furlong was speaking about his journey in rugby as a Vodafone ambassador for the Lions’ series against the Springboks and paid tribute to his long-time scrum coach Greg Feek, who coached him at both Leinster and Ireland.
— Vodafone Ireland (@VodafoneIreland) June 25, 2021
Tadhg Furlong on the ‘scrum daddy’ Greg Feek.
“I was raw when I left school and moved to Dublin and into the Academy in terms of scrummaging. I didn’t actually play a massive amount of AIL for ‘Tarf, there were a few injuries there that held me back a small bit,” Furlong explained.
“I call him the scrum daddy, Greg Feek, still. I learnt his method of scrummaging, he was the scrum coach at Leinster and put a massive amount of time in, then he moved on to Ireland.
“I suppose, the base model or the ‘off the shelf’ Greg Feek model of scrummaging is trying to be a square tighthead, a chesty scrummager with a high elbow. You see some tightheads are very shoulder.
“Intertwined with that is Rossy [Mike Ross], I’ve been very fortunate to play with some very good tightheads, picked up some insights from them.
“Rossy, Nathan White was very good, Michael Bent – you watch in training, he’s a good tighthead in terms of even talking to him about the scrum and it’s one thing seeing something and saying ‘how did he do that?’, but understanding his rationale behind it – I always find that interesting.”
Massive upcoming scrummaging challenge against the Springboks.
Furlong is set to come up against arguably the greatest challenge there is for a prop against the Springboks scrum in the coming weeks.
There has been little opportunity to analyse South Africa in recent times, as the Springboks played their first test match since the 2019 Rugby World Cup against Georgia on Friday.
However, their destructive power was clear for all to see in the 2019 World Cup final, when they dismantled the English in a physically dominant performance in Yokohama.
The Springboks’ scrum was particularly impressive on that day, something which Furlong is all too aware of.
Tadhg Furlong: Springboks scrum will either motivate or frighten you.
“You probably had every team in the world looking at it and thinking that’s a blueprint for it. I suppose it either motivates you in that you want to get that dominance in a game,” Furlong commented.
“In those big games it can be a fear element that you never want that to happen to you. Obviously it was such a big part of the game and it was the deciding of it.
“Kyle [Sinckler] going off – I don’t want to speak for the English camp because I don’t know what went on there really – but it’s combinations a lot really isn’t it? Dan Cole came on and he had a tough time.
“When the other sub front row came on that he would’ve been scrummaging with all week they started getting a little bit more dominance. They got a scrum penalty straight away. So you don’t know if it’s a combination thing. It’s hard to say really.
The Springboks are up and running with a victory in their first Test match at home since 2019. ???
— Springboks (@Springboks) July 2, 2021
“In terms of South Africa they’re aggressive, they love their scrummaging and they are big men. They’ve two very good front rows and they interchange really early on in the game compared to other teams.
“Obviously it’s a huge part of the game for us. And it’s not just the test matches is it? It’s all the leading games for us.
“Leinster would have found out playing against the Cheetahs and the Kings with the threat they can pose at scrum time. It’s nearly a different mindset from them and it’s a huge part of the game.”
Tadhg Furlong is an official Vodafone Ambassador for the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa. He was speaking after dedicating his 2021 Lions jersey to Peggy Hill and her late husband Godfrey of New Ross Rugby Club who were instrumental in fostering a love of the game in Tadhg as a youngster.