Sunday 25 February 2018

Competition keeping Conor keen

Conor Murray, pictured, does not expect injury to Eoin Reddan to clear the way for him at scrum-half
Conor Murray, pictured, does not expect injury to Eoin Reddan to clear the way for him at scrum-half

Conor Murray insists there is still a fierce battle for Ireland's RBS 6 Nations scrum-half berth despite Eoin Reddan's calf strain.

Leinster half-back Reddan is rated "highly doubtful" for Ireland's championship opener against Scotland in Dublin on Sunday by team manager Michael Kearney.

Ireland boss Joe Schmidt has recalled Leinster scrum-half Isaac Boss into his squad, and also has Connacht's Kieran Marmion available if required.

Should Reddan miss out, Murray will be expected to start on Sunday, but the Munster half-back rejected any notion of an easy passage into the number nine shirt.

Scotching talk Reddan's injury would clear the way for him to start, Murray said: "No definitely not, it's exactly the same pressure as before.

"Bossy's there and Kieran Marmion is knocking around as well, so to be honest I'm just trying to focus on my own game and making sure I'm as sharp as I can be so I'm ready to go if I get the nod.

"There are three or four players vying for each position, so I'm just trying to look after my own corner and make sure I can give everything I can."

Murray expects Scotland counterpart Greig Laidlaw to set the tempo for Scott Johnson's side in Dublin.

Admitting Ireland must shut down the Edinburgh playmaker and goal-kicker, Murray said: "I rate him highly as a player, he's the focal point of their team, he drives a lot of their plays.

"I've played against him quite a bit against Edinburgh and a couple of times against Scotland.

"We'd like to think we know a bit about him but that doesn't make it any easier to stop him so we've got to be focused."

Cardiff's Munster-bound loose forward Robin Copeland has kept his place in Ireland's training squad after impressing in last weekend's 14-8 Wolfhounds victory over England Saxons at Kingsholm.

Murray hailed the back-rower as a good signing for Munster for next term, but also someone who could yet force his way into Six Nations action this term.

Head coach Schmidt is expected to start Chris Henry at openside flanker in place of the injured Sean O'Brien.

That frees up a loose forward slot on the bench, and Murray sees no reason why Copeland cannot fit that bill.

"I've had a few chats to him since he's been in camp," said Murray.

"He's picked up three man-of-the-match awards for Cardiff in the Heineken Cup group stages which is unbelievable.

"And up close he's a real athlete, a powerful player and he seems to be a natural footballer.

"It's a good signing for Munster and he's already having an impact here now as well."

Murray admitted Ireland have pored over their last-gasp 24-22 defeat to New Zealand from November in analysis, in a bid to stamp out little errors that cost them victory in cruel fashion.

Keen not to linger on that All Blacks epic, the 24-year-old British Lion said: "That consistency element has definitely been a topic of discussion for a long time in our camp now.

"It was a great performance against New Zealand, we came agonisingly close and we don't want to dwell on it for too long, but we must look back and draw on the positives too.

"I know a lot of rugby has been played since then, but that's still our last performance.

"We've looked at that game in detail, identified areas where we could have improved, and we've got to take that forward now."

Press Association

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