Sunday 15 September 2019

'It's our first outing since then for a good few of us' - Conor Murray says Ireland won't repeat same mistakes against England

Conor Murray. Photo: Sportsfile
Conor Murray. Photo: Sportsfile

Rúaidhrí O'Connor

Sitting in the shade away from the beating Portuguese sun, Conor Murray sips on a protein shake and considers the prospect of kicking off his season against England in Twickenham.

Normally, players get to start their seasons in the relative obscurity of pre-season friendlies or early PRO14 games away from the spotlight.

Every four years, things take a turn and they are expected to hit the ground running on a bigger stage.

It may be August and there may not be any tangible rewards on the line with the big prize on the horizon, but playing England is playing England.

And, when your last outing against the auld enemy ended in a humiliating defeat there is an even more pressing need to hit the ground running. And, while Murray is not dwelling on a disappointing Six Nations that saw Ireland start with a heavy loss to England and end with a poor performance in defeat to Grand Slam winners Wales, he says they hope to have learnt from the experience.

"It's our first outing since then for a good few of us, last weekend was the chance for other lads to right a few wrongs," says Murray.

"It's not a motivating factor in the dressing-room, it's an individual thing and to be honest with you it's gone, it's over. Looking back on those games, we know how we lost them.

"We know what went wrong, but a lot went right in that Six Nations and there's a lot of people we can take from it.

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"Looking back on that England game, we just made a bad start and that seemed to be the start of the story-line for our Six Nations outside our group and maybe a little bit inside our group.

"That was the starting block, the standard set and it felt like we were chasing ourselves.

"But realistically, looking back at the game, a couple of little errors that turned out to be big errors just set us up for that game and maybe for the rest of the Six Nations.

"So we didn't get too bogged down in it, we knew what went wrong and how to fix it so I think that's long gone but still really valuable learning lessons."

England physically bettered Ireland in that opening day defeat, while Saracens repeated the trick against both Leinster and Munster en route to winning the Heineken Champions Cup.

Eddie Jones is expected to recall Mako Vunipola to his line-up, while Manu Tuilagi could also start.

And Murray says that while there are ways of limiting the big ball-carriers' threats, sometimes you have to just front up and hit them.

"There's lots of ideas you can try and do. Maybe the source of the ball, the platform at the set-piece and try to slow that, their first phase," he outlines.

"There's all these things you can try and do. If you don't do that, you're going to front up and try and stop that momentum.

"Yes, it is more difficult because of all their explosive ball-carriers but I think we have a few too.

"It's about working hard together, staying in the fight and if they get to that point where they're on front-foot ball - which they're searching for on the first two phases - then these guys will come on and strike and they'll pull the trigger out wide or (Owen) Farrell comes blind or whatever.

"There's bits you can try and do, and hopefully disrupt and slow it down.

"But I can assure you that at some stage, it's the nature of it, that they will get on the front foot. We've got to front up so hopefully all those weights help out!" adds the scrum-half.

"With England having two games under their belts now it's going to be really tough, the start of the game - the first 20 minutes - is going to be massive in terms of getting set and getting into the game and giving ourselves a chance."

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