Tuesday 25 October 2016

Conor Murray: I'd imagine it was very narky in the Leinster camp this week

Conor Murray

Published 20/11/2015 | 02:30

Munster's CJ Stander in action during training at UL
Munster's CJ Stander in action during training at UL

Up until Tuesday evening all of our focus was preparing for the Champions Cup game with Stade Francais this Sunday, and it was a strange feeling when we heard the game was called off.

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As a team, we were looking forward to going over to play the game, more of a mark of solidarity with the French people and our opponents than anything else. It would probably have been an emotional occasion to play a sporting event in a city that has just been hit by such an atrocity, so to some extent we were not surprised that the game was postponed. Some things are far more important that rugby.

Hearing the news of Jonah Lomu's death on Wednesday morning, along with the tragedies in Paris, really shows everyone how lucky we are to play the game we love.

Lomu was such an inspiration to our generation of players and there are countless people playing the game now because of what they saw from him in a stunning career.

On the pitch, we were very pleased with the way we ground out the win against Treviso last weekend. There was nothing pretty about it, but sometimes Mother Nature decides what sort of game you have to play.


I think for anyone that was watching on TV, you cannot get a grasp on conditions, and even in the stands in Thomond Park it can be deceptive how difficult the conditions were. On a day like last Saturday the wind changed every couple of minutes: where we warm up on the right down towards Moyross, the wind comes over one shoulder; when you walk up the other side of the pitch it is coming over the other shoulder. It's a very hard thing to come to terms with, especially when you are kicking the ball from hand and off the tee.

Add in a greasy ball, the lashing rain and a really tough Italian pack who love physicality and love smashing people, and it had all the hallmarks of a tough day out.

Honestly, I was quite fearful that it could have been a potential banana skin before the game once I saw the conditions. It proved to be very difficult for long periods until we got on top in the final quarter, so we were more than happy to take the five-point bonus win.

In the lead up to the game we all knew what Treviso were capable of. Gori, McLean, Hayward and Steyn are really top players, but as a team they haven't gelled fully yet. When they do, they will be a fine side in my opinion.

If they get a dry ball against one of our other group rivals, it will be interesting to see how it unfolds.

Europe is different to the Pro12 too. The competition brings the best players and best play from teams. We have never had it easy against them in the league, so we are expecting a big test from them in the return match.

It was a bit of an ugly job from us last weekend, but to be honest, it wasn't the day for pretty rugby. We are well capable of playing an attractive game.

Brian Walsh is always keen for us to express ourselves and have some controlled fun with the ball, but hopefully we'll get some chance to do that before too long.

But once we looked out the window on Saturday morning, the majority of our creative game-plan had to be thrown in the bin. It was a return to basics really, a bit of determination and grit. We can be happy that we can get a good job done in those sort of conditions.

You have to be careful in the build-up to matches that you don't go out and target winning bonus points, but you have to be realistic too. We all know how important it is to pick up five-pointers when they are available. The night before our game we saw Leicester pick one up against Stade Francais, which was a huge result in the pool. This group is really tight and it could well come down to the bonus points.

In the first year of the Champions Cup last season, it was noticeable at how the quality of the pool teams has increased. We have another tough pool this year but I feel our squad is becoming more experienced and used to each other along the way too.

We all know how strong the French teams are now, but everyone wants to play in this competition, players are coming from all around the world to compete, which only lifts the general standard too.

Having improved standards is great for the fans and spectators, but it's up to us to follow that trend and improve all the time. There are no easy games any more.

Just look at Leinster last weekend and their defeat at home to Wasps.

We were all watching that game because we have a lot of good friends playing there. It was a really tough start for them. That loss makes things very tricky - but not impossible - for them going forward.

I'm sure they'll have had a big week in training, it'll have been narky enough I imagine. I know some of those lads really well and the mood would not have been great. But I would never write them off.

They have come from behind in so many massive games in Europe and the talent they have at their disposal means they could well qualify from their pool.

All focus for us has already turned to preparing for the Connacht Pro12 game at Thomond Park next weekend and I can't imagine how they felt coming back from a week in Russia.

I saw a note on Twitter last Tuesday saying they had just arrived back - their game was on Saturday so you can imagine how tough that was for them.

For now, the Champions Cup has been parked, so it's all about cementing our place near the top of the Pro12.

Irish Independent

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