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'There's a little prop family going around world rugby, you recognise each other's weirdness'

By Liam Heagney

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Ireland tighthead Tadhg Furlong has revealed that the revelation his teammate and fellow prop Andrew Porter had to cry off the Lions through injury floored him with shock when he learned about it on social media. It was June 4 when Leinster played a Rainbow Cup match away at Glasgow, a game that Furlong wasn’t selected for so he didn’t travel. Michael Bent was the starting tighthead and he gave way for the introduction of Porter 45 minutes into the action at Scotstoun. 

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There was no indication on that Friday night that something serious had happened to Porter but it emerged on the following Sunday morning that Kyle Sinckler had been called up to the Lions squad to replace the unfortunate Irishman who had suffered a tour-ruining toe injury. 

Having known Porter for years on the Ireland and Leinster scene, this injury revelation hugely took Furlong by surprise. “It’s so tough on Andrew Porter, I only found out on social media,” he admitted. 

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“I didn’t know. I was absolutely… I was on the floor because I know how hard he works and how diligent he is and how well he has performed all year. I get on well with Kyle and power to him, he had some adversity there and he spoke about it and he is on the rebound now and sport is like that sometimes. I’m looking forward to catching up with him but obviously, he is not here at the minute.”

While Furlong was on the Channel Island of Jersey this past week for the first week of the Lions, Sinckler was involved in the Gallagher Premiership semi-finals with Bristol who were stunningly defeated by Harlequins, freeing him to now link up with the touring squad.

He will be looking to reverse the pecking order that prevailed in 2017 with Furlong starting all three Test matches against the All Blacks and the Englishman making three appearances off the bench. Having been on a Lions tour already, the 28-year-old Irish front-rower who has 49 caps for his country has found it far easier to settle into the tour life this time around. “Four years ago I was 24 and had played very few games of rugby in reality.

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“But from just from a game point of view and where I stand and do things, you know a few of the backroom staff already, a few of the players already, you know what to expect. The anxiety is down from what it would be if it was your first tour and you’re looking into the black hole really.”

That black hole was alleviated in 2017 by the antics of Furlong’s touring father, family stories he happily told about him when on media duties in New Zealand. There will be no family in South Africa due to the pandemic restrictions but the prop reckons the bubble can help the Lions to be an even tighter-knit group than before. 

“He might be a little bit less stressed watching on TV,” said Furlong about his gas-ticket dad. “My mother and my girlfriend when they are sitting alongside him at a game every time a scrum comes they have to give him a little space because he is doing all the movements with me in the scrum. 

“Look, it’s going to be different. I suppose that hasn’t hit home how different it is going to be yet because we are not over there, we’re just in training week. It’s definitely going to be a challenge but there are two sides to everything and the time we get to spend together as a group with minimal distractions really can be a really good positive for us and make really strong relationships within the squad.”

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Aside from waiting for Sinckler to arrive, another familiar prop face from 2017 who has yet to muck in is Mako Vunipola due to Saracens playing the second leg of their Championship final this Sunday.

“I’m an admirer of the way Mako plays his rugby, his threat at the line, his footwork at the line, his ball-playing and skills… the skill set he has for a big man is massive. I’m looking to catching up with him,” said Furlong before referencing South African Steven Kitshoff, the prop the Lions tighthead is likely to scrum against if he gets the starting jersey from Gatland. 

“There is kind of a little prop family going around world rugby, you kind of recognise each other’s weirdness in the small little ways. You even find yourself gravitating to the props here at the minute. It’s just one of those weird things.”

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'There's a little prop family going around world rugby, you recognise each other's weirdness'

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