SCRUM’S THE WORD: Furlong is the best player in the world despite snub

Tadhg Furlong is the best rugby player in the world despite nomination snub… while Rieko Ioane went unnoticed as he enjoyed London public transport

  • There are several mouthwatering rugby autumn internationals this weekend 
  • England vs New Zealand, Wales vs Australia and Ireland vs Argentina stand out
  • New Zealand star Rieko Ioane was spotted on a South Western Railway train
  • It is mind-boggling that Tadhg Furlong was overlooked by World Rugby again
  • The Ireland prop is the best player on the planet – but he has been overlooked

Here we go – a proper autumn weekend.

The window is open, the wind is whistling and the All Blacks are in Europe. There are games to get your mouth watering all over the show this weekend, with England vs New Zealand, Wales vs Australia and Ireland vs Argentina the highlights.

But with more besides you might be all in a tizz – so here is Scrum’s the Word the guide you through the action.



If Kylian Mbappe took a train from London Waterloo to Teddington – why wouldn’t he – then you would probably expect a circus.

Selfies galore, viral on social media, debates about a #humble human being (but should he not have been in a private car in case!??!), general madness.

Another sport, another stupendous talent from the best team in the world who barely remembers the 1990s but not an eye-lid batted.

Rieko Ioane was spotted on a South Western Railway train earlier this week

Rieko Ioane was spotted on a South Western Railway train earlier this week

Scrum’s the Word’s spies – oh yes we have some, watch out – saw All Blacks winger Rieko Ioane on a South Western Railway train out to the ‘burbs last weekend.

The 21-year-old, who has scored 22 tries in 21 Tests and can run at 23mph, was on his own carrying a few Selfridges shopping bags, travelling back to the New Zealand training base after a trip into town.

And no one knew who “swaggy Reeks” (as he nicknames himself, according to Lima Sopoaga) was – or at least, if they did they let him get on with it. It would be nice if we had a picture here to show you it happened, but no one took one.

Rugby, eh?

The New Zealand wing will be hoping to steamroll can't England's defence at Twickenham

The New Zealand wing will be hoping to steamroll can’t England’s defence at Twickenham


Australia coach Michael Cheika was in gloriously tongue-in-cheek form on Thursday.

His side have won 13 in a row against Wales, but the hosts on Saturday are favourites with every bookie.

Wales never really like being labelled favourites, but Cheika was more than happy to talk Warren Gatland’s men up – with little caveats.

Australia head coach Michael Cheika has stated that Wales are the favourites on Saturday

Australia head coach Michael Cheika has stated that Wales are the favourites on Saturday

‘Wales have had a few wins in a row and are up to third in the world, which is really good for them. They are in top form and it will be up to us to show how we play the game.

‘I have always had a big rap on Wales, even when I was coaching Leinster. They were always very competitive across the board.

‘Gatland is one of the best coaches in the world and he has had success with the Lions and Wales. He has got a very well organised, well drilled team and that is why they are at the position they are. It is a great opportunity for us to take their scalp.

‘We have massive respect for Wales and you have seen the run they are on and where they are in the world rankings. That shows their quality.

‘We don’t mind running as an underdog, don’t worry about us. We will enjoy that status, not that I am a gambling man, and get to Cardiff where we love playing in the great atmosphere there. We are looking forward to it.’ Talk about killing with kindness.

Cheika's side have won 13 in a row against Wales ahead of the Principality Stadium encounter

Cheika’s side have won 13 in a row against Wales ahead of the Principality Stadium encounter


The official press release announcing the Fiji team was excited as we are about seeing the Islanders back playing in Europe.

‘John McKee has named a FIERCE Fiji Airways Flying Fijians line up to take on Scotland at Murrayfield Stadium this Saturday.’ Then you click through and it’s a ‘Fierce, Fast and Fiery’ team. They’re not wrong.

Leone Nakarawa, Peceli Yato, Viliame Mata, Ben Volavola, Vereniki Goneva and Semi Radrada are all in it.

Looking at that lot Scotland might be reaching for another, shorter word that begins with an F at Murrayfield.

Fiji will be hoping to cause an upset when they face Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday

Fiji will be hoping to cause an upset when they face Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday


Idea for a new chant – young Jordan needs one.

‘When the man in green flies,

‘And his steps make you cry,

‘That’s Larmour, eh!

‘When his passes are neat,

‘And there’s sparks at his feet,

‘That’s Larmour, eh!’ 

You’re welcome…

Sportsmail's Scrum the Word has come up with a song for Ireland flyer Jordan Larmour (right)

Sportsmail’s Scrum the Word has come up with a song for Ireland flyer Jordan Larmour (right)


Well, then. We’ve asked for this game for ages – now it is here. Italy vs Georgia is on.

Every year for last five or so there has been a debate over whether Italy – who could open an (albeit limited) kitchen utensil business with all the wooden spoons they’ve got – should have to fight for their place in the Six Nations.

And when it comes up, Georgia are the ones we always mention as the one to replace them. We’ve asked for a knock-out game, promotion and relegation and the bods at the Six Nations have always scoffed at our suggestions.

Meritocracy? We shall see.

It’s not quite the game we are after, and a one-off game is probably not that instructive as to whether Georgia would cut it at the top table, but if they win against the Azzurri… oh Nelly do we have a debate on our hands.

Their scrum is now coached by Graham Rowntree – but they are not just a big pack, they have genuinely talented backs in full-back Soso Matiashvili and scrum-half Vasil Lobzhanidze.

So they could easily win it, and make the world sit up and take notice – again.

Go on Georgia. You’ve been cut out and had your hair ruffled for too long. Let’s see what we’re missing.


Good to see all the referees and (Tier One) coaches meet at the Lensbury club in Teddington, south west London this week.

It made for an interesting picture, at least, (who knew that referees Angus Gardner and Jerome Garces shared the same pair of glasses? And what are Warren Gatland, Eddie Jones and Andy Farrell joking about?) It was designed to crash together the top minds in the sport ahead of the coming internationals – and clarify a few directives.

One tweak they have made for the autumn – which we have mentioned before – is cutting back ‘run-on’ chat between the referee and TMO (we think that was the best bit of it) but the most interesting quote was this.

‘Following a review of recent matches, including those outside the window last weekend, match officials were reminded of their obligations in sanctioning illegal no arms tackles, high tackles and charging with the forearm or elbow, as the international federation furthers its commitment to evidence-based head injury prevention.’ 

Oo, we wonder who they were talking about!?

Superb getting the coaches and referees together ahead of the November tests, as we do regularly. Excellent collaboration, dialogue & commitment to make the game better for players and fans


Who’s the best player in the world?

We are asked this, sorry, we are told this every year about this time. ‘Here are your nominees for World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year.’ Eighteen years into the handing out of this gong, nothing has changed.

For the eighteenth year in a row, no props have been nominated.

Some front rowers have been before (Steve Thompson, 2003), (Dane Coles, 2016) and one has won (Keith Wood, 2001) but it has always been hookers.

Ireland prop Tadhg Furlong (right) eshould be recognised as the best player in the world

Ireland prop Tadhg Furlong (right) should be recognised as the best player in the world

Sometimes that has been understandable – but this year, and in fact the last two, it makes the list a sham.

Tadhg Furlong is the best rugby player in the world. There you go, we’ve said it.

He has not just changed his position, he has changed the game.

A beast of a scrummager who can show-and-go in the outside channels like Beauden Barrett, step like Shane Williams and pass like Jonny Wilkinson; he is the perfect modern-day forward.

Never before has a player wearing No 3 on their back been so talented at all facets of the game. Some have been gnarly props – none have married that with guile too, like Furlong does.

He is also a Six Nations Grand Slam winner, European Cup winner, Pro14 champion and was part of the 2-1 series win against Australia. That defeat in Brisbane will likely be Ireland’s only of the year, and Furlong has been at the heart of it all.

Beauden Barrett – obviously nominated – has not had his best year. Yeah, OK he scored four against Australia but his kicking has cost the All Blacks dear in their rare slip ups recently.

Beauden Barrett has been nominated for World Rugby Men's 15s Player of the Year once again

Beauden Barrett has been nominated for World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year once again

Faf de Klerk and Malcolm Marx have been genuine revelations – but have not taken Sale or the Lions to the top of piles too. Furlong is dominant, and a champion for province and country.

Rieko Ioane has clearly been brilliant with 11 tries in eight Tests. He merits his place.

The only player who can hold a candle to Furlong this year is Johnny Sexton. His drop-goaling, commanding, driving and winning has been superb this season.

He is the Scrum’s the Word choice out of the nominees thrust upon us – but Furlong is the true winner in 2018. Maybe we should have our own swanky dinner and awards ceremony?


100 TEST wins for Kieran Read if New Zealand beat England on Saturday – he is only one of two players in the All Blacks XV to have lost more than 10 Tests. He had been beaten 13 times in 115 Tests, Owen Franks 11 in 104. Only Sam Whitelock (9) and Aaron Smith (7) of the rest of the 23 would need two hands to count their Test defeats.

2008 The last time Wales beat Australia. At that point Gordon Brown was the Prime Minister and we did not know what Uber, Twitter or Instagram were.

2 DEFEATS in Scottish history to Fiji. Both came in Suva – the last in 2017 where the Scots lost 27-22 on their Pacific Island tour. They have won the other five Tests between the sides.

1,603 DAYS since Ashton’s last Test start on June 21, 2014 vs New Zealand in Hamilton. His last Test try came the week before, in Dunedin against the All Blacks as well.

2 YEARS since Ireland’s last Dublin defeat. They have won nine in a row at the Aviva having last lost there 21-9 to New Zealand in November 2016.

Chris Ashton will make his first Test start in 1,603 days when he plays New Zealand on Saturday

Chris Ashton will make his first Test start in 1,603 days when he plays New Zealand on Saturday


ITALY vs GEORGIA (Stadio Atemio Franchi; Saturday 1pm) 

ITALY: Sperandio; Benvenuti, Campagnaro, Castello, Bellini; Allan, Tebaldi; Lovotti, Ghiraldini, Ferrari, Zanni, Budd, Negri, Polledri, Steyn.

GEORGIA: Matiashvili; Koshadze, Sharikadze, Mchedlidze, Dzneladze; Khmaladze, Lobzhanidze; Nariashvili, Bregvadze, Kubriashvili, Tcheishvili, Lomidze, Giorgadze, Tsutskieidze, Gorgadze.

Prediction: Georgia – oh go on then, that could put the cat among the pigeons, wouldn’t it!?

SCOTLAND vs FIJI (Murrayfield; Saturday 2.30pm; LIVE: BBC 1 from 2pm)

SCOTLAND: Hogg; Seymour, Dunbar, P Horne, Maitland; Russell, Laidlaw; Dell, Brown, Nel, Skinner, Gilchrist, Wilson, Ritchie, M Fagerson.

FIJI: Tuicuvu; Talebula, Radrada, Vatubua, Goneva; Volavola, Lomani; Ma’afu, Matavesi, Saulo, Cavubati, Nakarawa, Waqaniburotu, Yato, Mata.

Prediction: Scotland – Fiji have so much talent, but Scotland will likely score six tries and win.

ENGLAND v NEW ZEALAND (Twickenham Saturday, 3pm LIVE Sky Sports Main Event from 2.30pm)

ENGLAND: Daly; May, Slade, Te’o, May; Farrell, Youngs, Moon, Hartley, Sinckler, Itoje, Kruis, Shields, Underhill, Wilson.

NEW ZEALAND: McKenzie; B Smith, Goodhue, SB Williams, Ioane; Barrett, A Smith; Tu’inukuafe, Taylor, Franks, Whitelock, Retallick, Squire, Savea, Read.

Prediction: New Zealand – too much of a stretch to see England winning. They’re not ready yet.

WALES v AUSTRALIA (Cardiff; Saturday 5.20pm; LIVE: BBC 2 from 5pm)

WALES: Halfpenny; North, J Davies, Parkes, Adams; Anscombe, G Davies; Smith, Owens, Francis, Beard, AW Jones, Lydiate, Tipuric, Moriarty.

AUSTRALIA: Haylett-Petty; Folau, Kerevi, Beale, Naivalu; Foley, Genia; Sio, Latu, Alaalatoa, Rodda, Coleman, Dempsey, Hooper, Pocock.

Prediction: Wales – they’ve got to, surely.

IRELAND vs ARGENTINA (Dublin; Saturday 6.30pm; LIVE: Channel 4 from 6pm)

IRELAND: Larmour; Earls, Henshaw, Aki, Stockdale; Sexton, Marmion; Healy, Best, Furlong, Henderson, J Ryan, O’Mahony, O’Brien, Stander.

ARGENTINA: Bofelli; Delguy, Orlando, De la Fuente, Moyano; Sanchez, Cubelli; Garcia Botta, Creevy, Medrano, Alemanno, Lavanini, Matera, Petti, Desio.

Prediction: Ireland – The Pumas the latest beasts to be tamed by the Irish.

FRANCE v SOUTH AFRICA (Paris; Saturday 8.05pm; LIVE: Premier Sports) 

FRANCE: Medard; Thomas, Bastareaud, Doumayrou, Penaud; Lopez, Serin; Poirot, Guirado, Gomes Sa, Vahaamahina, Maestri, Lauret, Iturria, Picamoles.

SOUTH AFRICA: le Roux; Nkosi, Kriel, De Allende, Dyantyi; Pollard, de Klerk; Kitshoff, Marx, Malherbe, du Toit, Mostert, Kolisi, Vermeulen, Whiteley.

Prediction: France (?) – So difficult to tell, so do forgive us if we’re wrong, OK?

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