Sunday 22 September 2019

With McGrath on his heels, Marmion sees Fiji opportunity

Kieran Marmion will get his chance against Fiji on Saturday. Photo: Paul Mohan/Sportsfile
Kieran Marmion will get his chance against Fiji on Saturday. Photo: Paul Mohan/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

As much as Kieran Marmion is attempting to close the gap between himself and Conor Murray, these days he is looking over his shoulder that bit more anxiously as Luke McGrath will feel that he isn't too far away.

Both back-up scrum-halves are set to be given their chance against Fiji on Saturday but it is Marmion who seemingly remains ahead of McGrath in the pecking order.

Given his impressive form for Ulster this season, John Cooney will be disappointed that he isn't being mentioned in the debate but nevertheless, Joe Schmidt has options who need game-time on the international stage.

Getting the November series off to a flyer against South Africa has shifted the pressure on to plenty of the younger members of the squad as they look to ensure that they maintain Schmidt's lofty standards.

Fascinating

Marmion will win his 18th cap in the Fiji game and his potential half-back partnership with Joey Carbery will be one of several fascinating aspects of the sold-out clash.

"Me and Joey do a lot of reps together in training," Marmion said.

"We just transfer what we're doing on to the pitch and that's the main thing, really.

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"He's very skilful, he's talented, he does seriously good things in training and that comes out in games as well.

"You can definitely expect more from him, he's going to keep getting better and better."

The Fijians will pose an altogether different challenge to that of a massively under-performing Springboks outfit and Marmion is mindful of that.

The Connacht scrum-half replaced Murray for the final 10 minutes last weekend and if, as expected, he is promoted to the starting XV on Saturday, he knows there is pressure to deliver, especially with McGrath waiting in the wings.

"It's definitely a different challenge this week, they have a lot of individuals who are seriously talented," the 25-year-old maintained.

"Looking through their profiles, and the athleticism and power, the off-loading that they bring, I think it's going to definitely be a challenge for our lads to play against, it will be tough to take them down.

"I think as a player you've got to back yourself. If you don't back yourself then nobody probably will.

"Your performance, you get that from training, the confidence, and as soon as that happens you've got to get out on the pitch and make sure you earn it."

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