Monday 27 February 2017

'We're a hell of a lot stronger mentally than 2013' - Murray

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ireland's Conor Murray during a press conference at Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago, USA. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ireland's Conor Murray during a press conference at Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago, USA. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Conor Murray doesn't want this interview to be about 2013, but like any heartbreak, it's not too far from the surface.

The scrum-half was a try-scorer at the Aviva Stadium on the day Ireland nearly beat the All Blacks in an epic encounter, only for Ryan Crotty to deny them at the death.

It was a game that framed the seasons that followed, but a look at the tape shows just how much life has moved on since. On Saturday, Murray is likely to be one of six survivors in the starting XV, while Joe Schmidt's coaching ticket has changed utterly since that day.

So, while Murray concedes that the searing disappointment he felt that day will be a motivating factor this week, the 2013 match itself is of little relevance.

The focus of the video analysis has been on New Zealand's recent games - a collection of big wins that show the Ireland players just how daunting the task ahead is.

Yet, there are lessons to be learned from the 24-22 defeat three years ago. Ireland know they can cause the world champions problems if they bring the right level of intensity and keep playing for 80-plus minutes.

"You've got to keep playing against a team like this; you've got to keep attacking them," Murray said. "Like you saw maybe in that 2013 game, maybe in Ellis Park last summer, we probably took a step back and tried to close it out a bit. . . you've got to keep running, keep attacking and that's the belief that I'd take from 2013.

"I know our game is good enough to put scores up against the All Blacks - we have that. It's keeping the foot on the pedal, not getting scared and closing it out. It's about attacking, and that comes from the last few years.

"The All Blacks, South Africa and a few other games we had good leads and we failed to kick on. Maybe we thought we had enough work done and nearly wanted the game to end, but you've got to keep going and keep going."

Murray is convinced that Ireland are in a far better mental space to go the distance.

"Mentally, you've got to keep going. You can't hope for the game to go quickly, for the clock to run out or for them to make mistakes, you've just mentally got to keep going," he said.

"That's a hard thing to do, because after 60 minutes you're fatigued physically and mentally.

"We've got to keep reassuring ourselves that we can keep attacking, playing our game-plan and build momentum and scores.

"Mentally, it's a step we've taken in the last few years.

"From where we started when Joe came in in 2013 to where we are now, mentally we're a hell of a lot stronger. We've just got to believe in ourselves.

"It does take an 80-minute performance and that's part of the exciting challenge of this week.

"You're up against the best team in the world who are playing very, very well. You want to pit yourself against the best - the last couple of times I've played them I've learnt a lot about myself as a player so hopefully we're a bit more well-equipped, I know we are.

"We can go out there with confidence, knowing it will take a serious effort and we will have to be close to our best."

The All Blacks haven't lost in 18 Tests and haven't been behind at half-time in 2016, and Ireland will want to put them in an uncomfortable position and see how they react.

"You've got to, from the off, attack them and not go into the game and see what happens, try and stay with them," Murray said.

"You've got to go out there, take the initiative and go at them. You try and worry about your own game when you have the ball and be a really solid defensive unit."

Irish Independent

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