Saturday 17 March 2018

Murray: Players have to accept responsibility

Munster scrum-half wants squad to respond to widespread criticism

Conor Murray believes Munster can come through their current difficulties. Photo: Sportsfile
Conor Murray believes Munster can come through their current difficulties. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Yesterday, Munster fans finally got some good news as James Cronin and Mike Sherry penned new deals, but such is the way of their world right now, the press release came with a sting.

BJ Botha's ruptured cruciate ligament means that his Munster career is likely over and this sucked a bit of the joy from the press release, but at least there was something positive to cling to as two home-grown talents committed their futures.

If the mood is truly to change, then the players have to deliver a performance and beat Stade Francais on Saturday. It won't affect their European predicament, but it would lift the province and instil some life into a season that has veered radically off track.

The squad are well aware of the brickbats that have been flying ever since they performed so poorly in Paris.

Conor Murray knows only too well how far things have fallen. Last month, he went on record about his intention to stay with his home province and fight to restore the glory days.

They seem a long way away and Saturday's loss has led to a period of introspection and straight-talking.

In the aftermath of the game, captain CJ Stander pointed to the fact that players were walking to lineouts when Munster wanted to lift the tempo as an example of how things went wrong and Murray says it summed up the problems they encountered.

"People walking is completely unacceptable," he said. "We have to have a good look at ourselves and our behaviours. Pointing fingers is one thing but at the same time we have to stay tight.

"There's a lot of criticism of us as a team at the moment, we can't really look outside the group to fix that, we've got to stay tight together, try and figure it out ourselves and come out this weekend and start to perform.

"We got to the final of the Pro12 last year with basically the same squad so we're not a bad team, we're just going through a tough patch. We have to fully believe we can turn this around.

"People are saying there's a lack of passion, lack of talent or whatever. I don't necessarily agree with that. I can see why supporters and media would say that and it's up to us to fix it.

"We look at the game and we can see why people would say there's no passion when we're falling off soft tackles or we're getting outmuscled, which is something Munster teams never really did, so it's up to us to recognise how fans and media see it and try and fix it.

"The one-on-one tackles is very annoying. We did have a few passages of play, where we made a few line breaks down their wing and then lost that breakdown and then 90 seconds later, they are under our posts and kicking a conversion.

"Our inability to hold onto the ball is an area we are trying to fix, so we went back to basics, and looked at one or two, three things that aren't working for us and tried to make them better rather than looked at a whole host of things."

It has been pointed out that the loss of Paul O'Connell to Toulon, Felix Jones to retirement and Peter O'Mahony to long-term injury have robbed the province of three of their key leadership personnel from last season, but Murray does not believe that it has been a factor.

"CJ's doing an awesome job and people are rallying around him and leading as well. I think we have a clear idea of how we want to play, our defence, attack and everything," he said.

"Obviously losing someone like Pete and Felix is huge for a squad and people have to step up and people are definitely trying to step up. Whether that has an impact you'll probably have to wait until the end of the year and see how it goes in the long-term.

"At the moment I don't see it. I think it's how we're playing. We've a really good understanding of how we're trying to play and it's just silly, soft errors that are costing us. Leadership, I don't know if that ties into it.

"We're a really self-driven squad, the coaches are leading us and giving us everything they can, it's down to personal responsibility. We're leaving the coaches and the fans down by not performing.

"We're a very honest group and we say it to each other. We call each other out when mistakes are made and we pat each other on the back when we do things well so I don't think right now that's an issue.

"There's definitely a lack of confidence and that's why this weekend there's pressure on us. But at the same time there's a little bit of pressure off us because we can't qualify so we can go out and try and perform and start righting the wrongs and start fixing the few areas that haven't been going so well.

"At the same time, we were embarrassed last weekend. I know they were French champions but we still had high hopes of performing a lot better and potentially winning the game and we didn't go near those standards."

While the face of Andy Farrell was new to most of the Munster players on Tuesday, Murray knows him well from his time with the Lions. And he hopes the new Ireland defence coach, who will act as a consultant with the province for the rest of the season, can have a positive impact.

"Up close and personal, when you sit down and chat with him, he is a really good guy," the scrum-half said.

"He helps you. It is not a case of being afraid of him when you go to sit down with him. My only experience with him was when he was a defence coach but when he was sitting down, reviewing a game, he is very honest.

"He makes it as clear as day what he wants from you and how he wants you to defend. He gets all of us buying into the same philosophy and it was a great tool for us in 2013."

Irish Independent

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