Monday 25 September 2017

O’Connell backs Murphy and Keatley to succeed in the Roman cauldron

Ian Keatley and Joe Schmidt talk tactics
Ian Keatley and Joe Schmidt talk tactics

Ruaidhri OConnor in Rome

Paul O'Connell has backed Jordi Murphy and Ian Keatley to perform in the Roman cauldron when they make their Six Nations starts tomorrow.

The Ireland captain admitted that the loss of Jamie Heaslip has weakened Ireland’s hand when it comes to experience and leadership, but says that his Leinster colleague can act as an able deputy.

Murphy was a replacement in Ireland’s loss to England at Twickenham last season and in the win over Italy, before doubling his caps total on tour in Argentina.

And the Munster legend urged Murphy to concentrate on his own game and not get overawed by the occasion or the presence of his opposite number Sergio Parisse.

“It is strange, you lose a relaxed kind of leadership around He always has plenty to say in a good way, he’d be a handy guy to have with a few inexperienced guys in the team,” O’Connell said of Heaslip’s absence.

“That’s part and parcel of it, we’ve had to play without some big guys in recent years, but he tends to be very relaxed.

“Jordi’s a little bit similar to Jamie, fairly relaxed and very talented, a very talented guy. He just seems to be looking forward to weekend.

“From a lineout point of view, since day one he’s known his role inside out and that’s the way you want it to be.

“In the back-row you have to play your own game and his is excellent. He’s a very clever player, a big thing for him is to play his own game. He’s familiar with the guys around him, he’s been in camp a long time and played in Argentina.

“Parisse’s a superstar, a fantastic player but you don’t come up against your opposite number too much.”

As for his provincial colleague, Keatley, O’Connell said that the patient way that Keatley has built his career through Leinster, Connacht and Munster will stand to him on the biggest day of his career.

“Ian will handle it every well, he’s very experience. He’s taken the long road to get here, he’s been excellent for Munster,” O’Connell said of the fly-half

“He’s worked very hard, years of experience and ups and downs. He’s been a leader for us at Munster, he’s played under different coaches in different conditions. He might not have many caps, but I think he’s looking very good for tomorrow and he’ll go very well.”

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