Tuesday 27 September 2016

Murphy insists 'slump' is behind him as he finds his form again

Published 19/05/2016 | 02:30

Leinster and Ireland Rugby star Jordi Murphy launches Skill Zone in Sandyford, Dublin (Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy)
Leinster and Ireland Rugby star Jordi Murphy launches Skill Zone in Sandyford, Dublin (Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy)

At a time when players playing below their optimum fitness level is increasingly coming under the microscope, Jordi Murphy's admission that after the World Cup he was operating at 60pc would seemingly go some way to explaining his dip in form.

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On the back of a couple of impressive seasons for Leinster, Murphy became a regular In Joe Schmidt's Ireland squad but after a difficult outing in the World Cup warm-up defeat to Wales in which Justin Tipuric dominated, the former Blackrock College student endured a difficult few months.

It was a tough period in the 25-year-old's career but his performances in recent months would suggest that he is nearing a return to his best form. Injuries to Sean O'Brien and Josh van der Flier have not only opened the door for Murphy at Leinster but with a tour of South Africa just around the corner, he is eyeing a return to the international fold.

Murphy was left out of Ireland's Six Nations squad and although he was involved in several camps, he admitted that it was the most difficult period of his career.

"I suppose the initial call, when it came from Joe, I had a feeling it was coming anyway. I didn't feel I was going well," he conceded.

"I was very disappointed. I sat down with my old man straight away and had a chat about it. I just knew there was no point in sulking about it anymore. I had to move on.

"I suppose players go through a few lows here and there and I suppose I haven't had a very long career up to now and haven't really had any (lows) so it was a strange one for me.

"Obviously, it was pointed out quite a lot. It was one of those things. I was trying hard to get to that level I know I can be at but was just finding it a bit difficult, niggles here and there.

"People around me like Josh and Rhys (Ruddock) were playing really well. It was obviously disappointing not to get to that level and missing out on the Six Nations squad for the first time in two years."

The competition for places in the Leinster back-row is one of the fiercest in Europe and although it was difficult watching his team-mates leave for Ireland camps during the spring, it only served to drive Murphy to get back to where he feels he belongs.

"It's tough to see guys go off to national camp when you've had a taste of it before and had the opportunity to wear the green in big games," he said.

"I know I've been at that level before and I know that I can be again. It's definitely a driving factor to getting back there.

"It's the exact same as if you've never played before and you see those older boys. For example, Jamie (Heaslip) and Seanie (O'Brien) when I was younger and seeing them at their level and knowing that they've been in my position and knowing that there was a reason I was where I was.

"People thought that one day I might be able to get to their level. It's the same driving factor all of the time."

Looking back on the period following the World Cup, Murphy is his own worst critic and knows that his form was below what it should have been but a niggling groin injury certainly didn't help matters.

"I suppose I was just a bit deflated, had a bit of a slump. I had a problem with my groin which wasn't one of those problems where you have to stop playing for a few weeks," he explained.

"I could keep going but I was going at probably 60 or 65pc. I suppose one of the strengths I've had over the last few years is that change-up onto the ball, even coming off the bench, giving that extra bit around the corner and I just couldn't really find it with that niggle.

"People play with those 80pc injuries all of the time. It was just trying to manage it and trying to play at that peak level, I just wasn't quite there. It wasn't from the lack of trying, I just couldn't quite get there.

"It was the change and the explosiveness. If you're going to get that shooting pain every time, it's quite tough to do. Deciding when to do it and when not to was the problem. I feel like I've got it right now and am getting a bit of an opportunity now at the tail end and am trying to grab it with both hands and do what I know I can."

Murphy is likely to start an openside flanker against Ulster tomorrow and going up against Chris Henry - another who will be hoping to benefit from the injuries to Irish back-row competitors - will provide him with an ideal opportunity to prove to Schmidt that he is back to his best.

It hasn't been an easy road for Murphy but it is one that he feels has led him back to where he wants to be.

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