Jordi Murphy relishing repeat battle with 'superstar' George Ford
Published 01/04/2015 | 02:30
Matt O'Connor's mind will surely have paid close attention to Ireland's Six Nations win over England as he prepares to devise a similarly nullifying game-plan for Leinster's clash with Bath.
George Ford's performance at the Aviva Stadium a month ago wasn't exactly high on the list of reasons why he was short-listed for the player of the tournament award, and he will arrive in Dublin with Bath on Saturday with something of a point to prove.
O'Connor has the luxury of being able to call upon two of Ireland's starting back-rows that afternoon - Sean O'Brien and Jordi Murphy - and when you consider that Jamie Heaslip will also come into the mix, the foundations are already in place for Leinster to win the crucial breakdown area.
Ford was given little to no time to stamp his authority on proceedings that day due to the ferocious work of the Ireland back-row, and with the news this week that Rhys Ruddock is ruled out for the remainder of the season, Murphy looks set to join O'Brien and Heaslip in the Leinster starting XV.
Murphy could hardly have had a better preparation for Saturday's Champions Cup quarter-final and he is likely to be asked to do a similar job in quelling the attacking threat of Ford.
"He's quite the superstar. He's got the all-round game, doesn't he?" Murphy said in admiration of the 22-year old.
"He's very young but he's got a lot of confidence. He's very creative, has a good boot and really knows how to run a back-line well.
"I obviously have to watch his show-and-go all the time and try and put pressure on him.
"Like every good out-half, he's where they look to, to get the back-line moving. I think he's definitely one of the targets for us."
Outside Ford, Jonathan Joseph - who finished as the Six Nations' top try scorer in his debut season in the tournament - will also pose a major threat, but Murphy is determined to make home advantage count, just like Ireland did.
Last season, Leinster limped out of Europe at the same stage after a daunting trip to Toulon, and despite Bath's pedigree, O'Connor could hardly have wished for a better draw this time around.
"They've done some job considering they lost the first two games of their group stages in the Champions Cup to come back and do some job on the likes of Toulouse away," Murphy warned.
"They have a physical pack, with the likes of (Stuart) Hooper and (Dave) Attwood, who played most of the games in the Six Nations, and then some really creative backs as well.
"Last year we weren't able to get past this stage. It's the biggest game of the season and that's the way to put it - it is.
"Myself personally and I know the rest of the squad are just dying to get out there and give them a good game.
"They're a seriously impressive side and it's definitely going to be a tough battle."
Bath, like Leinster, have stumbled without their star names during the Six Nations period.
The 1998 European Cup winners have lost four of their last six games but Murphy is reluctant to read too much into recent results as they are set to welcome back a host of internationals for Saturday's clash.
"I think the structures of the club stay the same even when players are in and out," Murphy maintained.
"We're going to look back at their Champions Cup pool stage games and a few of their last Premiership games. There's plenty of footage out there to hope to get a glimpse and see what's coming."
Leinster's stirring second-half comeback against Glasgow last Friday means that they have momentum behind them, but Murphy is mindful that a similarly under-par first half showing against Bath could well see them exit the competition.
"We've got a few lads to come in. I think our confidence is good," he insisted.
"We were disappointed with our first half last week but I thought we bounced back well and were unfortunate not to come away with the win.
"I had to start remembering a few moves because it's completely different with Ireland.
"Your whole focus is on that while you're there and then coming back I was a bit rusty on them but I thought we did well."
"I think we're in a good place and we can only improve. This week is going to be big for us."