Sunday 25 March 2018

Conor Murray insists he has faith in Anthony Foley's plan of attack

Conor Murray is confident in the threat posed by Munster’s attacking shape –
provided they cut out the errors. Picture: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Conor Murray is confident in the threat posed by Munster’s attacking shape – provided they cut out the errors. Picture: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

News that Anthony Foley is set to pen a contract extension to remain at Munster has received a lukewarm reaction from the Munster faithful, yet Conor Murray's decision to stick with his home province in the midst of a fallow period suggests that faith remains strong in the dressing-room.

Against Leicester Tigers last weekend, the Reds played some excellent attacking rugby but were let down by handling errors and, in particular, their tackling.

Their attacking plan has been criticised under Foley, who may look to shake up his backroom team ahead of next season, but this was a coherent game-plan with ball in hand; Brian O'Driscoll highlighted the use of props in midfield and the play that led to Mike Sherry's try was as good as anything Munster have produced in years.

The frustration in Limerick is around the errors that have undermined that good play, but Murray believes that there were enough positives to take from the defeat to suggest going again with greater accuracy could do the trick at Welford Road.

"When we attacked our shape looked really good and we did stress them; we leaked tries, our set-piece went wrong, a couple of tackles were missed, but that's nothing to do with the attack," the scrum-half said.

"As a group we have full faith in the way we're playing that we can cause teams problems.

"Over the last few seasons I haven't enjoyed playing in an attacking structure as much as this because I feel we have the tools to cause teams problems and stress them.

"It was tough for us after the game but we have to remain positive, it has been working for us so far this season.

"Obviously the last three weeks haven't gone to plan but before that we won six out of seven and played some really good rugby. We're focused on remaining the same and being more clinical and being a stronger defensive outfit.

"You get another bite off the team that beat you the week before at home. It's an immediate chance to make up for it, an immediate chance to turn your season around.


"It's a big game, it's big pressure, it's exciting. As a player, these are the games you want to play in."

Although he has yet to conclude negotiations with IRFU performance director David Nucifora, Murray has signalled his intent to stay and is a player Munster will look to build their team around in the years to come.

A key leader in the dressing-room, Foley will look to his Test Lion to pick up the preparations and ensure that the players will move on quickly from last weekend's disappointment.

"Saturday, after the game in the dressing-room was very, very quiet, very disappointing. Probably the day after it's kind of negative and it takes you a little bit of time to get over that," the 26-year-old explained.

"As professional athletes we have to get over that quicker than supporters or anyone else and try and rebuild and go again.

"We did concede two, maybe three soft tries, scores we wouldn't usually.

"When we attacked them and played our game our shape looked really good.

"It was really enjoyable when we had the ball, just for the last pass not to go our way or not be clinical enough.

"We are not going to try and reinvent the way we play. I think we are very happy with the structure we have. We just need to tighten up on a few areas and be really positive. There are going to be people writing us off all week and that is to be expected. When you do lose at Thomond, it is a tough thing to take, but Munster have a good record at Welford Road.

"I am looking forward to getting out there, playing in the team again. I really enjoyed last week, bar the defeat. When we were playing good stuff, it was really good and really enjoyable. Yeah, huge week, big pressure. As a squad we are remaining positive and really tight."

Leicester look poised to bring out-half Freddie Burns into their team for the first time this season in place of the injured Owen Williams, while Munster have doubts over concussion victim BJ Botha, who is following the return to play protocols.

The province have a history of winning at Welford Road and are smarting from their own fortress being stormed last weekend.

Leicester's win put them in control of Pool 4, but with Munster having a back-fixture against Stade Francais to come, there is time left for the picture to change if the Irish province can get the result in England this Sunday. And Murray is confident.


"We fully believe we can go over and win over there," he said. "I 100pc believe it, so if we do go over there, put on a performance and get a win, the whole European picture changes again.

"That will be our focus this week, not what people are saying about us this week, but just trying to get a performance together, get a result and suddenly we are looking at something completely different.

"When we did have the ball we did cause them problems, we did get in behind them, make line-breaks, we just weren't clinical enough in finishing them off, so that is a point we have to take forward into this week and really believe in ourselves.

"Defensively, we know we can be a lot better. If you marry the two of them together, hopefully you will get a lot better performance."

The Ireland star is hoping his own performance will be better this weekend after experiencing some rustiness last Saturday night due to his three weeks out with a foot injury.

"It was a swelling of the bone, something which could lead to more problems if you didn't rest it, so I had my amount of time on the sidelines and it is fully good," he said.

"I wasn't training with the guys, but I tried to keep as fit as I could.

"I felt pretty decent out there and again training this week has been pretty intense and physical so I know I will be in a better place come Sunday."

Irish Independent

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