Wednesday 11 December 2019

'We are going into camp now with a freshness' - Conor Murray looking forward to new Ireland chapter

Scrum-half welcomes change of scene after 'tough' few months

Positive outlook: Conor Murray insists he’s looking to the future after the disappointment of Ireland’s World Cup in Japan. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Positive outlook: Conor Murray insists he’s looking to the future after the disappointment of Ireland’s World Cup in Japan. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

On top of all four provinces making winning starts to the Champions Cup, the most noticeable aspect of last weekend was the emotion and freedom of expression shown by the returning Ireland players.

At the RDS, you had Johnny Sexton and Garry Ringrose - one of the quietest guys around - celebrating their tries with real vigour.

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Jacob Stockdale's match-winning intervention was greeted with a huge outpouring, which came hours before Munster went wild when they got over for the bonus-point try late on. The following day, Connacht's remarkable result against Montpellier, and the joyous scenes at the final whistle, were a throwback to the good old days.

Should the four Irish teams repeat the trick against French opposition this weekend, it would be an even bigger achievement.

For all of the disappointment that threatened to linger after the World Cup, so far at least, there have been few signs of a hangover.

Players are genuinely happy to be back in familiar surrounds and with a new Ireland head coach to impress, the page has quickly turned.

Conor Murray endured those difficult days in Japan and admits he can understand the fall-out from another miserable quarter-final exit.

All the while Andy Farrell is watching on, the coaching shake-up in Munster has meant that there is a freshness to both set-ups.

Ireland are due to hold their first training camp under the Englishman early next month and that in itself has refocused the attention.

"I think (we are) going into camp now with a freshness, a new head coach, and things like that," Murray maintains.

"It's a fresh thing that players can attack, rather than having been together for so long and going back to the exact same set-up.

"Even though it was really good, maybe it's just weirdly good timing to freshen things up.

"You could have easily come back in here (Munster) and moped about, nearly not motivated for the rest of the year because the World Cup is such a big deal and we put so much pressure on ourselves.

"You have to be mature about it - that's over, it's gone. There's still plenty of rugby to play, you have the opportunity to play well for the rest of the year and do something positive.

"You didn't have much time really to mope about. Out of the 12 of us who came back, we all came back with a good mindset.

"Even just getting out training, getting back to enjoying rugby because by the end of the World Cup, the way we went out was just tough. It was a tough time and a tough place to be."

Murray has been part of some of Irish rugby's greatest days and while he knew they wouldn't last forever, he had never really experienced a back-lash like this one.

"I understand it," the scrum-half insists.

"I've been around long enough now to understand how people react. I think because this team has been really, really successful over the past five years, we hadn't seen that success in an Irish team or been involved in it.

"I didn't see the other side of it or expect it because we hadn't been at that level of the past four or five years.

"People are probably upset, and they do want us to go well, so when it doesn't happen they are looking for reasons and there are all sorts of opinions.

"Within our group, we were really confident about what we were trying to do. Our game-plan was brilliant, it was just a shame we didn't execute because we created chances. That's what I'm trying to get across, we created, but we didn't finish.

"You'll carry it for a while and there are certain motivational things but the best thing is to be positive and try to get back out there.

"In sport, this is my summary of it... some days in sport, and ye will know it as well, it just doesn't go according to plan. Everything you have prepared for and thought you'd see, you didn't see.

"People saying that our game plan became predictable or whatever... if we played well and we executed that chance for a line-break (against New Zealand), scored off the back of it and went 7-0 up, suddenly there's nothing wrong with your game plan. When it goes the opposite way, that's when people are obliged to say that or feel they can say it.

"It would be nice to get that chance again but you might not."

That Murray has come back into a Munster set-up with Stephen Larkham adding a new dynamic has helped ease the World Cup burden.

They got off to an ideal start against the Ospreys and although a tougher test lies ahead against Racing on Saturday, Murray is relishing what lies ahead this season.

"First of all, get over the World Cup and enjoy playing and being part of a really determined and motivated group," he adds.

"Obviously, the aim is to win trophies with this club but I think just being back here and trying to get better, enjoy rugby, improve your craft. There's where I'm at, trying to get as good as I can and go from there."

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