WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Keith Wood and Brian O‘Driscoll won a combined 191 caps for Ireland and have been inducted into World Rugby’s Hall of Fame but in 18 career games against the All Blacks they failed to register a single victory.
Tadhg Furlong, the British and Irish Lions’ 24-year-old tighthead prop, has already beaten the world champions twice in four tests over the last eight months.
And the Irishman is fully aware how fortunate he is.
“I am incredibly lucky,” said Furlong, who played in Ireland’s first victory over the world champions in Chicago in November and in the Lions’ 24-21 win on Saturday in the second test in Wellington.
”I looked back at when we were playing New Zealand in Chicago and there are a lot of people who played the All Blacks five or six times and never won.
”I’d never played them and ... to beat New Zealand in my first game of playing them, having known that so many players ... legends of the game, had never beaten them you feel lucky, privileged.
“To do it twice, even more so.”
Furlong, who made his debut against Wales shortly before the 2015 Rugby World Cup, cemented himself as Ireland’s first-choice tighthead during this year’s Six Nations tournament.
The Wexford native was highly touted before the Lions tour began and his reputation has been enhanced in New Zealand after several battles with All Blacks loosehead Joe Moody.
Furlong said the All Blacks tight five were not given enough credit, particularly in the northern hemisphere.
”The outside world doesn’t give the All Blacks scrum the credit they deserve,“ he said. ”Believe me they are a very, very strong unit.
“Sometimes you’re just holding on to get parity, especially on your ball and it’s hugely competitive.”
The All Blacks battled with 14 men for almost 60 minutes in the second test after Sonny Bill Williams was sent off and did not score a try, with all of their side’s points coming from the boot of Beauden Barrett.
Furlong said the Lions would need to improve at Eden Park because the All Blacks would be stung from defeat.
”You always fear the All Blacks in that if you don’t get your stuff sorted or man up and meet them head on, it’s a tough day at the office.
“If that doesn’t happen they’re going to cut you to ribbons in the wider channels if you give them any space. Likewise they can score tries from anywhere on the park,” he added.
”If none of that works, they’re just so damn consistent and good at holding onto the ball. They’re so tough to beat and you have to keep attacking them.
“That’s easier said than done.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford