Monday 19 August 2019

'It was probably one of the worst days in an Irish jersey' - 2015 exit still haunts Conor Murray

Ireland's Conor Murray. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Ireland's Conor Murray. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

As a survivor, Conor Murray knows the 2015 World Cup exit is going to come up in conversation so he gets the first reference in as a pre-emptive strike.

It is not, he insists, going to form part of his motivation as Ireland come face to face with the ghosts of Cardiff for the first time on Saturday, but he concedes that deep down the hurt still lingers.

This, however, is a new team and they are determined not to be burdened by the events at the Millennium Stadium two years ago. The turnover of players since backs him up.

Ireland have played 22 games since losing to Argentina in that World Cup quarter-final, using 72 players - 31 making their debuts. Of the 23 who faced the Pumas, just eight are likely to feature again this weekend.

Different

"I am one of the lads who was involved in that game," said Murray. "It's not in my mind this week because I am in a new group, I am playing with a team that is completely different to the team that played against Argentina that time around...

"I have got to stress it's not part of my motivation, but if you were just to speak about it as a game on its own it is a game that does, it would haunt you a small bit because it is the what-could-have-been.

"It's like getting knocked out of any tournament. I have semi-finals with Munster in Europe in my head that would gnaw away at me as well and you are just thinking what could have been.

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"Like Toulon or Clermont a few years as well, you're looking at the fact you could have made it to the final and you don't know what would have happened then.

"Everyone had them and it just happens to be Argentina coming around this time. It hasn't been mentioned in our squad but there are lads who, the last time we played Argentina, it was that game.

"I am not going to say it is a massive motivation but it's a little bit there."

It remains an unpleasant memory of an unpleasant day.

"It was, yeah," Murray conceded. "It was probably one of the worst days in an Irish jersey for a load of reasons.

"It was a game where you had a really good chance to make a semi-final of a World Cup.

"Thinking back, people talk about the players we lost but at the same time we gave them a really good start in that game, and they still carry that threat.

"Especially since the Jaguares have come together, they know each other an awful lot better. The majority of them play with them. So those threats are still there.

"There are definitely lessons we can learn from that game, although it was a long time ago also. But if you want to talk about that game specifically, yeah, it was really tough, because we gave them a good head-start, and then we clawed our way back to three points down and then we just let it slip again.

"A really tough day, and they're the days you don't like to have, but you also learn an awful lot about yourself and the team in those days. Not a nice day."

Since the two teams last met, Ireland appear to have kicked on while Argentina have been struggling - winning just eight of their 26 matches since, compared to Ireland's 14 in 22.

Big three

But Murray believes they are benefiting from constantly coming up against the Southern Hemisphere's big three.

"They have grown as a squad, playing against New Zealand, Australia and South Africa so regularly," he added.

"When they joined the Rugby Championship, they said they were going to play against these teams so much they are going to get better and that is exactly what has happened.

"They challenge any team, absolutely, it's a big challenge for us this weekend and we want to finish on a high so it is going to be a massively competitive game.

"They will be the same, they are an emotional group as well, any game they are up for it and they don't go away easily. It's going to be exciting.

"I can't wait."

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