Murray: Ireland can get even better
Conor Murray has fired a World Cup warning shot to Ireland's Test rivals, insisting Joe Schmidt's RBS 6 Nations champions still have plenty of improvements ahead.
Ireland retained the Six Nations title for the first time since 1949 with a 40-10 victory over Scotland in Edinburgh on Saturday, edging past England to glory.
England fell short of the required points-difference buffer despite a 55-35 victory over France, sending the trophy to Dublin for the second-straight season.
British and Irish Lions scrum-half Murray hailed the impact of taskmaster boss Schmidt in overhauling Ireland's entire approach - and backed the Kiwi head coach to drive another lift in standards before the autumn's global gathering.
"We are at a good level anyway, but I still think we can improve quite a lot," said Murray.
"Every game through the Six Nations there have been things we have been frustrated with and we haven't executed quite as well as we wanted to, but overall we are very satisfied with the way we have handled this championship.
"It's exciting that we can improve and with a World Cup coming up it's a great position to be in."
Ireland will be gunning to top Pool D ahead of the likes of France in the World Cup, to tee up a likely quarter-final against Argentina.
The perils of finishing as runners-up in Pool D are stark - a potential last-eight showdown with New Zealand, the only major power Ireland are yet to beat in Test action.
Head coach Schmidt's analytical and relentless approach raises hopes Ireland can pass the last-eight stage for the first time at a World Cup however, and Murray hailed his wide-ranging impact.
"Right now we are going to relax and enjoy what we have done but when it comes to going back to camp and we gather again, we will be looking forward to a World Cup and that is really exciting for us," said Murray.
"Constantly through the Six Nations we have performed well, we have played well but there have been a few areas where we know we can do better.
"That is quite exciting for us as a team with back-to-back championships now.
"We know we can get better and push on. Joe is a world-class coach and there is no secret there.
"The way he has the group organised, it is player-driven as well.
"We take on board what he says and we really believe what he gives us and we have huge belief in the squad at the moment.
"The longer we are together, hopefully the better we will get."
Munster scrum-half Murray has scaled the northern hemisphere half-back heights in this Six Nations, working in tandem with peerless fly-half Johnny Sexton.
The British and Irish Lions star admitted Schmidt's unremitting approach has helped him lift his craft to new levels.
Ireland were languishing at ninth in the world rankings when Schmidt took the helm in 2013 - just three defeats later, the world's third-best side have secured consecutive Six Nations titles.
"He has been unbelievable for me: when he came in he challenged players to improve," said Murray.
"And if you are not doing the work, and not showing it in training and in games that you are working hard on your game, he will talk to you and take you aside and give you advice on what you should be working on.
"From the moment he came in, he gave me a few pointers, a few little areas of my game that I wanted to improve and he's done that. He has improved me as a player."