Monday 20 November 2017

Murphy braced for hot reception in Belfast bear pit

Leinster senior skills and kicking coach Richie Murphy
Leinster senior skills and kicking coach Richie Murphy
Ulster captain Johann Muller
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Leinster head north on Friday night and into the bear pit.

Matt O'Connor's side are already assured of a place in the Pro12 play-offs and will look to cement a home semi-final but Ulster have much more stake.

On the back of the defeat to fellow play-off hopefuls Glasgow and with Friday's game followed by a trip to Thomond Park in the final round, Ulster can't afford to slip up when Leinster visit for the official opening of the revamped Ravenhill.

And after their agonising European quarter-final defeat to Saracens, the Pro 12 also represents the last chance to cap Johann Muller's Ulster career with some silverware before his retirement this summer.

The World Cup-winning Springbok led the province to Pro12 and Heineken Cup finals, only to lose to Leinster on both occasions, and Blues skills coach Richie Murphy is expecting a rabid home side.

"They've had a very tough couple of weeks and a lot of injuries in that Sarries game," Murphy said. "I thought they were incredible in it, losing Jared (Payne) so early. They put up an incredible fight and it shows where they have come to in the last couple of years.

"They're losing players going into next season but it gives them a great carrot to go and do this. They are five points ahead of Ospreys, and Ospreys look like they could get maxiumum points in their next two games, so Ulster will have to beat either us or Munster, which will be tough.

"It's their home game, the opening of the new stadium with one of their big rivals going there.

"I think I heard Muller during the week saying they had two cup finals to play and they will probably need five points to make sure they are in the play-offs, so it's a tough situation to be in.

"But we're not concentrating on them. We have to get ourselves right and we probably need six points to make sure we finish in top spot – but we won't be looking for six, we'll be looking for two wins."

Leinster will issue a full injury update today but Fergus McFadden and Eoin Reddan could return this weekend, while Sean O'Brien is "progressing really well".

There are similarly positive reports surrounding Luke Fitzgerald but, having seen a number of failed attempts to return over the last few weeks, Murphy admitted the wing has suffered setbacks in his recovery.

"It's a funny injury. He's having a few issues in and around his pelvic area. It has been a little bit hit and miss in order to try and find the solution. He's very positive that he feels a lot better than he did last week."

With the other three provinces unveiling new squad additions for next season, Murphy also hinted that Leinster could wrap up some signings in the next fortnight.

"All I would say is that we are working away in the background and there's a couple of things in the pipeline that, over the next week or two, might come out," he said.

"There are no concrete signings as yet."

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport