FUKUOKA, Oct 10 – Few days off for a wander around the buzzing city of Fukuoka was just what Ireland needed to get their tournament back on track, according to a heavyweight Tadhg Furlong.
"We were doing well in a massive way," Furlong said ahead of the Irish Pool A final match against the already eliminated Samoa on Saturday. "International rugby is a tough game. It's nice to release the pressure valve for a few days and then re-establish it."
The 26-year-old, pictured above, made his international debut shortly before RWC 2015 and has since become one of the best props in the world, starting all three British and Irish Lions trials against New Zealand in 2017.
He is also an engaging character, especially as he marvels at why he prefers the compact Fukuoka (1.58 million inhabitants) to "crazy" and "maniacal" Tokyo, which is about six times larger.
One vacation, Furlong and some teammates found a small restaurant serving Wagy beef cooked over an open fire in front of them. "Japanese food is nice, but it's nice to get a good steak too," said the farmer's son from Wexford.
He later liked the look of another restaurant, but wasn't sure if the dish was on the Japanese menu. "We did a Google Translate (application) and it came out as fried chicken cartilage. I'm all for embracing the culture, but it's a bit of a stretch for me."
The weather in Japan, he says, must have been different. "You are so isolated. You are catching up with the family in the early morning or afternoon. You are not out of your comfort zone, but in a way you are out of your normal life.
"It's a completely different culture. You can't completely immerse yourself in that rich state, you're not a tourist. But I enjoy traveling."
He'll enjoy it a lot more if Ireland manages to recover from two under-performances against Japan and Russia and advance to the quarterfinals with a more convincing display against the Samoans, in a match that is almost certain to start.
Although the free weekend was a welcome one, the teams returned to their usual regimen on Monday morning, glad they had a whole week to prepare.
"You're not running away from what you did in the past or your usual routines. You're not going to rewrite the book.
"It feels like it's very, almost done, but he probably just hasn't clicked yet. It's hard to put his finger on it. When we play really well, we can be really clinical. We hold the ball really well and just don't force it. Tap down, hold on what you are good at – and be very effective at it. "
On Saturday, he is facing a "massive challenge" from a team that will lose nothing. Keeping in mind selfies and physicality, he does not fully agree with the idea that Irish intensity will return with a vengeance now that the stakes are so high.
"As a group, you're probably not looking for a reason to fire, are you? It's about what standard you think is responsible."
Furlong's own standards are high and Ireland hopes he will return to the best rampage in Fukuoka.
RNS ae / sg / pp / ajr / ar / co