Friday 20 September 2019

'He smashes people. He's a bit of a wrecking ball' - Conor Murray on Jean Kleyn

Conor Murray of Ireland during the Quilter International match between England and Ireland at Twickenham Stadium in London, England. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Conor Murray of Ireland during the Quilter International match between England and Ireland at Twickenham Stadium in London, England. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Des Berry

Conor Murray is an old hand at this carry-on.

There was a time when the fresh-faced kid lingered to the last minute to hear his name called out.

Back in 2011, Declan Kidney just could not ignore his class and composure, even though it meant disappointment for the more tried, less trusted Tomas O’Leary.

The decision to take Murray over O’Leary was based more on what Kidney had heard from Munster and seen in camp rather than the scant evidence of his only international, a warm-up against France.  

"I got a run with Munster at the end of the year and got a call to come in," recalled Murray.

"In my head, I thought it was just an opportunity to come in and sponge off everyone in here and try and learn."

It worked to Murray’s advantage to embrace the challenge without the pressure of expectation.

"In a way, that made me less nervous. It just let me relax and train as hard as I could, do as best as I could.

International Rugby Newsletter

Rugby insights and commentary from our renowned journalists like Neil Francis, Will Slattery, Alan Quinlan & Cian Tracey.

"It was a massive turning point at the start of my career.

"It boosted me. It gave me a head-start, I suppose, let me get up to that level early.

"Personally, from that experience, I think I gained an awful lot," said the Limerick man.

Eight years on, Murray has taken the giant leap to rank among the best scrum-halfs in the world alongside All Black Aaron Smith.

Or, at least, that was the majority opinion until a neck/shoulder injury stymied him last season and Springbok Faf de Klerk continued to excel.

Murray absorbed a blow to the head from Jonny May’s elbow in a collective performance in Twickenham that could best be filed away under the heading 'forgettable.'

The personal landscape of what happened in London was more about the troughs than the peaks.

This weekend will reveal whether that was down to rustiness or something more enduring.

"World Cups are massive and 2015 was even bigger. It gave me more of a realisation of how big they are and how hard you have to work. 

"In 2011, I suppose, I just kind of got in there without really understanding what it took to make a squad.

"In 2015, I understood it more and, this time, around, I am fully aware of what can lie ahead and the opportunity we have."

It is a chance to make history, one that Devin Toner will not have unless bodies fall somewhere along the line.

For Toner, see O’Leary back in 2011; for Murray see Jean Kleyn.

The argument that has raged on about the fall of Toner and the rise of Kleyn could simply boil down to physicality.

It is one thing you can never have too much of when the game dissolves into a war of wills. 

"I know him from Munster, he brings enthusiasm, a willingness to work," said Murray.

"He smashes people. He's a bit of a wrecking ball.

"He brings that chatter on the pitch, which is good for a nine playing off a forward.

"You hear him all the time. He's a very vocal presence around."

Herald Sport

The Left Wing: Ireland's fullback dilemma, World Cup bonding and the squad standby list

Also in Sport