Conor Murray – We took our disappointment out on the Under-20s and it worked
Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray has revealed that the national team took their disappointment at losing their Six Nations title against England at Twickenham out on the U-20s.
The two squads pitted their wits against each other during the two-day camp that followed the 21-10 defeat that saw Joe Schmidt’s side lose out on a third successive Championship and what was supposed to be a run out with light tackling developed into a full on session.
Murray said the hit-out had a cathartic effect on the first-team squad who, he conceded, are bitterly disappointed at how this campaign has gone.
Ireland secured their first win of 2016 against Italy last weekend and can finish on a high against Scotland, but even if they beat Vern Cotter’s resurgent side, the No 9 will look back on this year’s tournament with regrets.
“Definitely, whether it's with province or country; we've always wanted to win, to play your best rugby,” Murray said.
“If you lose a game and you don't play your best rugby, you're going to be in a bad mood for the early part of the week and release it on the training pitch.
“We trained against the U-20s following the England defeat and it was a great session for us. It was supposed to be two-handed grab (tackle), but it almost became full contact; there was a bit of bite and you need that release to get that anger out of you and it shows people care, that they want to win and to perform well.
“You need that, if we had lost against England and then trained against the U-20s passively and just let it flow, then you'd be questioning if we wanted it bad enough.
“The hunger and drive is definitely there. The work ethic off the pitch is definitely there as well. So, hopefully, we perform well at the weekend and can take positives out of this tournament.
“Joe (Schmidt)'s been around long enough and knows that it it part and parcel of rugby teams that teams bicker on the training pitch, as long as it doesn't go too far, it's healthy to have that there.
“It's been a disappointing Six Nations overall. We always want to be in with a shout, looking at the way the last two years have gone we've been successful and not to be in with a shout of winning it is quite disappointing.
“But we've a few new faces, some good performances and positives to take out of it so we'll hope for another big performance next weekend and then go back to our provinces, eye up the summer tour which is a massive challenge as well.”
Last weekend’s win saw Ireland increase their total of tries scored from Murray’s pair in the first three games to 11.
The frustration in the camp was around the team’s inability to convert chances and the Munster man, who was speaking before the province confirmed that Anthony Foley would remain as head coach for another season, saw improvement in that area.
“If you look at the Welsh game again like we've spoken about in the last few weeks; you look at the linebreaks and look at the linebreaks against England; there are plenty of opportunities.
“What was irking us a little bit was that we didn't score any tries off those linebreaks or opportunities, that we scored tries from set-pieces, we got penalties and kicked into the '22 and scored off them.
“We probably put an emphasis on looking at our support lines, at flooding through the lines once someone makes a line-break and we did that quite well against Italy.
“That was a good learning for us, it was a good week to finish off things because if you don't finish off linebreaks against Italy then the longer you have the ball, the more dangerous it is and the less chance you have of scoring.
“At the weekend we did that really well and hopefully we keep doing that. There will probably be less line-breaks against Scotland you would imagine and we've just got to take those opportunities.”