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'There will be speculation now if he could play 12 for Ireland'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Leinster skipper Johnny Sexton has quipped that a jaw-dropping pass from Tadhg Furlong will ignite speculation that the popular prop forward possesses the skills to play as a midfielder for Ireland.

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The celebrated No3 produced a right to left whopper on the halfway line just six minutes into Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup semi-final win over Toulouse.  

His looping spiral pass was estimated to have travelled around 23 metres and it landed in the breadbasket of Hugo Keenan, freeing the full-back to set off on a gallop to the 22 that had Leinster threatening a try only for Antoine Dupont to block Jamison Gibson-Park’s subsequent grubber kick and go the length to score. 

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Furlong went on to last just 17 minutes of the semi-final before limping off with an ankle injury that will be closely monitored now that Leinster are playing a Champions Cup final on May 28 in Marseille against La Rochelle, the team that defeated them in last year’s semi-finals.  

In the meantime, the quality of the front-rower’s general play contribution versus Toulouse left much for Sexton to savour. “The quality of player that we have, to be able to do things like that in our front row, (second row) Ross Molony threw a couple of lovely passes out the back as well – but it is not something that happens by accident. 

“It comes down to the coaches working on it every single day relentlessly day in and day out, even when you are not playing you are doing extra skills sessions. So yeah, it doesn’t just happen or it’s not luck that these players just appeared. 

“Years of hard work and good coaching has gone into them and yeah, it was a lovely pass by Tadhg. I’m sure it will be part of his new highlights reel and there will be speculation now if he could play 12 for Ireland and is he the best playmaker that we have and all that. It will be interesting to see what comes out of it.”

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The early exit of someone as important as Furlong from such a high profile European match would have troubled Leinster in the past, but they were able to call on ex-Crusaders prop Michael Ala’alatoa to keep the Irish province going strong against the French at the weekend.

It’s a strength in depth that captain Sexton believes puts Leinster in a much stronger position heading into this year’s final compared to their last appearance in the European showpiece, the 2019 loss to Saracens in Newcastle. “We have been desperate to get back here. We just feel like we didn’t get our best performance out there on the day and Saracens were an incredible team.

“But the guys have had more experiences over the last few years and the calibre of player that we have now, you look at our pack and how good they are, so our squad depth is different now. We can rely on our second and third-choice players much better than we could in 2019.” 

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Shaylen 1 hours ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

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J
Jon 7 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

This is a bit dramatic for me, I think the Rebels and Force cultures would be very strong, and if a player is chosen from either, you can be confident they are in a good head space and ready. Whether they quite have the technical or tactical foundations of the other two states is where one would way their risk of selection. I see no need for Schmidt to worry about that risk in this squad. The main reason I could see a predominance of players from Brumbies and Reds, is simple cohesion. What might the coaching group make of what’s lacking in the Tahs, and to a lesser extent Rebels and Force’s, franchise? Certainly sides (players) that are running irish plays like we saw from that lovely McDermott long ball with have a head start. I hope the players can continue it at International level. Really liked what I saw of Wright (don’t know player focus and just hadn’t seen a lot of him anyway) in that game, can see him being a glue in a Wallaby side too. A with the similar worry of selecting players like Ryan, I think it unfounded to worry so much about forward balance at the moment. Including both Wright and Skelton in the same lineout is not going to lose you games gainst Wales. Nor will any unknown weakenss Wales might find in Ryan be exploited to any great extent. It is the perfect time to introduce such a young player. What other shortcuts might Schmidt want to make now, just a year out from hosting BIL? When Gamble came on the scene I thought he had a Pocock ability to break game apart along with performing the role of a openside well. I would be very keen to drop Leota/Hooper for Gamble, and in your squad make up, include Uru as a lock. Did you forget to remove Vunivalu from your team? Would you have Meafou in your squad if you could?

114 Go to comments
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