Gatland – ‘Tadh getting better and better’

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland believes Tadh Furlong has the potential to be one of the best props in the world.

Furlong will start at tighthead alongside loosehead Mako Vunipola and hooker Jamie George for the Lions first Test against the All Blacks at Eden Park.

It has been a meteoric rise for Furlong, who has only played sixteen times for Ireland having made his first start for the national team in last year's tour of South Africa.

And Gatland believes Furlong has a bright future ahead of him as he is still only 24 years of age and is not only a good scrummager, but possesses the all-round skill set and work ethic to make him a real asset to the Lions. 

“Tadhg is getting better and better,” Gatland told The 42.

“He’s still pretty green but he’s got something about him – he’s explosive, he’s quick for a big man, surprisingly quick.

"He’s a good ball carrier and he had a nice bit of inside play with Johnny [Sexton] and then an offload [against the M%u0101ori All Blacks]. That’s what we’re encouraging players to do and he’s the modern prop, for me.

“You’ve got to have more than just set-piece, scrum and lineout. You’ve got to be able to get around the pitch and defend, so I think in the next few years he’s definitely going to be one of the world’s best in that position.

“He’s just getting better and better and I think he’ll come away from this tour having established himself as being one of the top props in world rugby.”

Lions scrum coach Graham Rowntree shared Gatland's sentiments, having worked closely with Furlong on this tour.

“I’m very impressed,” said Rowntree.. “He’s a young man, a young prop still learning his trade.

“But he’s learning a lot on this trip and I thought he was exceptional on Saturday night [against the M%u0101ori].

“With Tadhg, it’s a lot more than just set-piece; his game-involvements – we have that much data like GPS data and you can really see who is working. He’s putting shifts in at the set-piece and around the field.

“It’s going to be difficult, but Tadhg is certainly learning a lot as a young player and I’m enjoying working with him.”