Andy Farrell is confident “world-class” prop Tadhg Furlong will be ready for Ireland’s crunch Guinness Six Nations clash with Scotland following a three-month injury absence.
Furlong has been thrust into Farrell’s starting XV for Sunday’s visit to Murrayfield after tighthead deputy Finlay Bealham sustained a championship-ending knee problem in the round-three win in Italy.
The 30-year-old has not played competitively since Leinster’s 38-29 victory over Ulster on December 3 but has been passed fit following a calf issue.
Despite a 99-day gap between appearances, head coach Farrell is positive Furlong will hit the ground running.
“Some players can and some players can’t and he’s across his detail like no other,” Farrell said of Furlong.
“Tadhg doesn’t have to tear himself apart mentally to try and make sure that he gets up to speed because he’s already figured it out.
“He’s one of those that probably when he’s driving the car, or sat in his room, or having a bit of food or whatever, he’s probably thinking about the game anyway so when it comes to training it’s all boxed off.
“He brings confidence to the team by how he prepares and that gives us confidence to know that he’s ready to play.
“He’s a world-class prop and a great leader and when you look around the changing room there are certain players that give a sense of confidence whether they’re playing or not and he’s one of them.
“Tadhg’s nothing to lose. He just needs to be himself, he just needs to go out there and enjoy it.”
Farrell has made six personnel changes for the trip to Edinburgh, bringing back a host of star names as his side continue their Grand Slam pursuit.
Captain Johnny Sexton and centre Garry Ringrose have overcome the issues which kept them sidelined in Rome, while Robbie Henshaw and Jamison Gibson-Park are back on the bench having, like Furlong, not featured at Test level since the autumn.
Hooker Dan Sheehan, flanker Peter O’Mahony and scrum-half Conor Murray have also been restored to the starting line-up, with Tadhg Beirne and Bealham the only notable injury absentees.
Asked if his selection was the strongest of this year’s Six Nations so far, Farrell said: “Well, it really doesn’t matter, does it?
“It’s what’s available to us and it’s always nice to have players coming back towards the end of the tournament.
“This stretch now coming up is probably the hardest stretch, back-to-back games with a six-day turnaround, so it’s nice that the squad is nice and healthy.”
While pacesetters Ireland remain on course for a tournament clean sweep following bonus-point wins over Wales, France and Italy, Scotland are bidding to clinch a first Triple Crown since 1990 to stay in title contention.
The Irish, who finish the competition at home to England, have won 11 of the past 12 meetings between the nations but Farrell is wary of the hosts.
“At this moment in time, they’re the whole package as far as (how) they’re playing,” he said.
“I think they’ve always been a really tough side to break down. The proof is in the history of that.
“You name me a game where they’ve not been confident going into a game against Ireland. Rightly so really, because we’ve always had ding-dong battles with them. It’s always been really tough and this is no different, is it?
“I’m sure they’re confident going into what is a huge game for them and a massive game for us also.”