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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Michael Scully

Tadhg Furlong wary of Rugby's 'Drive to Survive' doc but praises the Warren Gatland effect

Tadhg Furlong doesn't want rugby's own 'Drive to Survive' type documentary to reveal too many dressing-room secrets.

The Ireland star has watched Netflix's hugely successful behind the scenes Formula 1 series - which has been running since 2019 - but not as yet the new tennis equivalent.

Rugby fans have been promised a similar experience from a show that will document the events of the 2023 Six Nations and, although it won't be shown until next year, returning Wales boss Warren Gatland has expressed reservations about the move given the respective Unions' lack of editorial control over the content shown.

Furlong admits that he is also a little concerned having not as yet been filled in.

"We know it's happening but apart from that, I don't have much idea of what on the ground looks like or how much access is involved in it," he said.

"We've done it on Lions tours, with cameras being around. The only danger with cameras is that you still want lads to be themselves and not have the cameras affect what goes on.

"But you forget very quickly because they're eating dinner with you, they're part of the squad so you just get used to it.

"I'm not sure how much rugby IP I'd like to leak from the group, for normal reasons. I don't know the full ins and outs of it. I couldn't imagine it would be full open-door, I don't see how that would work."

It appears that the 'Drive To Survive' series has worked because of the good access that has been given to the documentary crew.

However Furlong is a little dubious. "You never know either, how much is it actually," he questioned.

"You don't see them talking about engineering, you don't see them talking about little pieces they put on their cars, and why they did it this way.

"I'm saying that in 'Drive to Survive', what do any of us know about F1? I don't know, I'm dealing in maybes here.

"I think there are a few feature players in it, they were looking for a few players to put their hand up. I don't know who's done it."

A concern that has been expressed within F1 is that rivalries have been manufactured between drivers, a claim dismissed by the show's creators.

"Look I don't know, I haven't talked much to the lads about it or anything like that," said Furlong. "I know (Max) Verstappen knocked it out, he doesn't fancy it."

Gatland has previously had no issue with raising the temperature when Wales play Ireland but Tadhg Furlong loves him regardless.

The Kiwi's return to the Wales hot-seat will surely add spice to Ireland's trip to Cardiff as the 2023 Six Nations kick-off on Saturday.

Gatland has rubbed Irish coaches such as Eddie O'Sullivan, Declan Kidney and Joe Schmidt the wrong way in the past and has made no secret of his disdain for how the IRFU replaced him with O'Sullivan as Ireland boss in 2001.

But Furlong only has good things to say about the 59-year-old Kiwi, who went with him in New Zealand in 2017 despite Furlong playing less than 20 times for Ireland at that point - and kept him on the pitch longer than any other prop in that drawn Test series.

“I loved him because he always picked me," laughed the Ireland star.

Furlong worked under Gatland on the last two British and Irish Lions tours, to New Zealand and South Africa, and was selected to start in all six Test matches played in that period.

Turning serious, the Wexford man explained the qualities that saw him first work with the Lions as an assistant coach in 2009, and as head coach on the last three tours.

“He is incredibly clued in," said Furlong. "He was a hooker, so he takes a good interest in the scrums.

"But a lot of it is just on tactics, getting the motion of it right, framing the week. He does it very, very well.

“I know the Welsh lads have a huge amount of respect for him and he really gets the most out of those Welsh players. They really buy in.”

Furlong explained how working under Gatland was different to what he was used to.

“The game, the week, being a rugby player is different, it's totally different," he said. "I mean, you go on the Lions tour and it's a different way. It's a different way of going about it.

“The meetings are very short. It's keeping lads fresh, a lot more contact in training than we would do in Ireland. Double-days a lot, he works you very hard, so it's different.”

Furlong is unsure if that is Gatland's coaching template and the process he will be following this week to get his players ready for the visit of Andy Farrell's men. He emphasises that what occurred on those Lions tours was just different to how things work with Leinster and Ireland.

At the same time, he has talked to Welsh players about how they go about things.

“They have that element of a spike during the week," Furlong reflected. "Now, you're not taking full 15 on 15 in-house games or anything like that.

“They do the spikes of live contact during the week and maybe they split. I know the English clubs do it as well, they might have a units session in the morning and then a team session in the evening.

“In Leinster and Ireland, we tend to wrap it up on one session, lace up once.”

The surprise return of Gatland in December at Wayne Pivac's expense was followed by the RFU's decision to axe Eddie Jones as England boss and replace him with Steve Borthwick.

That adds an element of the unknown to what is always a championship with so many challenges for all six competing teams.

With Wales and England in a state of flux, world number one ranked Ireland, last year's Grand Slam winners France and improving Italy are the championship's stable forces ahead of the first round of games.

Asked if that puts Ireland in a stronger position, Furlong takes the diplomatic route. "Look, I don't know what's going on in the other camps," he said.

"From our perspective, it's just on us to keep pushing on to where we want to bring it to and not being happy.

"Other teams, it can go one of two ways for them but usually when you see another coach come, it usually lends to a bounce in some aspects.

"Obviously with Wales, but it's not as big of a change as it is for England.

"That being said, even with England, Steve Borthwick has a relationship with a good few of those players already, whether that be England in the 2019 World Cup or with Leicester."

Furlong has been in Portugal with the Ireland squad since last Thursday as part of a warm weather camp ahead of the Six Nations. Having not played since Leinster's defeat of Ulster on December 3, he is fully fit again and hungry for championship battle.

"I'm itching, I can't wait," he admitted. "I think it's a class tournament, it really stands on its own, like a pillar on its own. It's a big deal, the Six Nations.

"You can see that with the crowds, all of the stadiums are full, there's obviously added excitement this year with the new coaches and the fact that it's a World Cup year, everyone will be analysing it in minute detail.

"You come through Christmas, January and then the Six Nations is looming."

*Pictured are Leinster Rugby Players, Tadhg Furlong, Ciarán Frawley and Jason Jenkins in the Aviva Stadium as Just Eat announce the launch of their sustainable Notpla food packaging at Leinster Rugby fixtures across the remainder of the 2022/23 season. Having launched the seaweed-based Notpla in September, Just Eat has created a €50,000 fund that will subsidise the cost of the environmentally friendly packaging for its Irish restaurant partner network. Find out more information at:


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