Friday 23 March 2018

Murphy out to storm Thomond fortress a second time in new role

Former Ireland star relishing Munster clash as he forges coaching career with Leicester

Geordan Murphy is enjoying his third year as backs coach with Leicester
Geordan Murphy is enjoying his third year as backs coach with Leicester

John Fallon

He was a key member of the side which raided Thomond Park for the first time in the Heineken Cup, but Geordan Murphy reckons that Leicester Tigers will need to produce something special to win in Limerick on Saturday night.

Murphy is in his third year of coaching with the Tigers and enjoying his role as backs coach at a club that he joined as a teenager and never left.

Leicester are coming into the back-to-back games with Munster in flying form, coming 17-0 down on Saturday to beat Worcester Warriors 29-20.

Their cause was helped when former Munster and Ireland lock Donncha O'Callaghan was sent off after half-time when he picked up a second yellow card - and two other players were sin-binned in the second half - and Leicester nabbed a bonus point in the final play.

"Worcester are a very proud side. They put in a lot of hard work, do the nuts and bolts very well. It was a strong wind coming down the field, and it was a difficult first half for us, but it was really encouraging the way the boys fought back from 17-0 down," says Murphy.


The win sends Leicester into the Munster games with seven wins from eight competitive matches but Murphy is concerned about the number of injuries they are suffering.

"Two very difficult games coming up. The season so far has been okay. We have got a lot of injuries again, and we have been scrapping for wins and it has been a tough year," he says.

"We have been playing some attractive rugby at times. Undoubtedly we had a huge amount of areas that we could have improved. We know that we need to be a lot better to compete next in Munster in Thomond. It is a very difficult place to go and play, and we will have to be on our game to compete.

"But I love going over home. It is a nice excuse for me to get just down the road from Naas. My family will all be down there supporting Leicester I hope. But it has been a 50/50 in the past.

"I have got a lot of friends in Munster, a lot of respect for Munster rugby. I really enjoyed my outings at Thomond when I played there. And hopefully we can be good enough to compete."

Murphy scored one of Leicester's two tries when the Tigers became the first to defeat Munster in a Heineken Cup game at Thomond Park in January 2007, running out 13-6 winners.

He is fully aware what it would mean for Leicester to triumph there again. The 37-year-old spent 16 seasons playing for the Tigers, having joined them from Naas in 1997. He won eight Premiership titles and played in four Heineken Cup finals, winning in 2001 and 2002.. And after making 292 appearances for the English club, scoring 82 tries, it seemed only natural that he would going into coaching with them when he retired just over two years ago.

"They gave me a huge opportunity to play at Leicester for a long time," he says. "And when I was coming towards the end of my playing career they thought there might be something that I could add to the coaching team.

"This is my third year now, and it has been a great experience, great learning opportunities. (Former All Black centre) Aaron Mauger is on board this year, that has been a real eye-opener. He has been taking the Canterbury model to us. I try to keep my mouth shut and listen as much as I can.

"It is a difficult transition from playing to coaching. It is a steep learning curve, but the club were very good to me as a player and they have been very good to me as a coach. They are really giving me every opportunity to develop, and it is a slow process. But I have really been enjoying it."


Leicester have been playing some excellent rugby this season; one guy to become an instant hit with the Welford Road crowd is winger and full-back Telusa Veainu, and Murphy has enjoyed working with him.

"He is a great player, Tongan international player of the year. We saw him playing at the World Cup, and we had a couple of injuries so we took the opportunity to sign him up," he explains.

"He has great pace and great vision and is a very, very good person with it. It really helps at a team like Tigers."

Murphy keeps in touch with his former Leicester and Ireland colleague Leo Cullen as they both cut a path in coaching, and he appreciates that being head coach has entirely different demands.

"I have been in touch with Leo over the last few weeks just via text. I think Leo is slightly busier than I am. Head coaching is obviously a very difficult thing to get into," he says.

"But Leo has got an amazing rugby brain. He is a great person, he spent a few years over at Leicester. And everyone has always been impressed, and everyone could see the leadership that Leo has. It was pretty obvious, the route that he would take. I know he will be very successful in that route."

No more so than Murphy you'd imagine as he tries to repeat Leicester's 2007 Thomond success as a coach this time round.

Irish Independent

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