VIDEO: Boks v B&I Lions: Time for 'big boy rugby'
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The Lions tour in South Africa has reached its business end.
With just days to go before the first Test between the Springboks and Britsh and Irish Lions at the Cape Town Stadium, both camps are fully aware of the magnitude of this week.
One player who certainly knows the pressure that goes along with a Test week is prop Tadhg Furlong.
The Ireland and Leinster tighthead was part of the side that faced New Zealand back in 2017 on the last B&I Lions Tour.
Now, four years later, Furlong will face another tough competitor in the form of the World Cup champion Springboks.
However, despite being an ever-present in the Test series four years ago, he feels no less sure of his place in the team.
The 28-year-old faces stiff competition – with the likes of Kyle Sinckler and Zander Ferguson vying for spots in the front row.
“It’s ‘big boy rugby’, on a big stage – you can feel it around the place,” Furlong told reporters on Monday.
“Everyone is a little bit on edge. We are into the nitty-gritty of the Tour now, and it means a lot to people.
“Everyone is just waiting to see how it pans out and see if you’re in or out.
“You can feel it around the camp, there is that bit of nervousness there.
“You don’t know what the coaches are thinking, so it [selection] is hard to say.
“The other tightheads have played very, very well, so it is up in the air. We’ll see how we go.”
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Furlong has impressed in the front row on tour so far, making appearances against Japan, the Stormers and in both contests against Sharks.
However, facing the Springboks is a totally different challenge, Furlong admitted.
The last time Furlong faced the Springboks was with Ireland in November 2017, where he went head-to-head with Tendai Mtawarira.
Should Furlong start this Saturday, he would most likely be opposing Steven Kitshoff, who – just like Mtawarira – has been part of the well-oiled scrummaging machine for the Springboks.
“You’re coming up against a passionate crew who take pride in their work and art at scrum time,” Furlong said.
“Yes, we’ve not been playing the Springboks. we’ve been playing the provincial teams or the franchises, but they still take massive pride in their scrum and they’re big men.”
He added: “It’s so ingrained in their DNA, that scrum dominance, the maul dominance.
“It’s a huge challenge for whatever forward pack and whatever subs are selected.”