Wednesday 21 March 2018

Returning heroes won't take long to bed in to Ireland system, claims Murray

Sexton, Heaslip and Co will add to Schmidt's options as France hold no fear for Munster scrum-half

Ireland's Conor Murray after a press conference ahead of their RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship match against England on Saturday
Ireland's Conor Murray after a press conference ahead of their RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship match against England on Saturday
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

NONE of the players in the current squad were born the last time Ireland came into a game against France unbeaten in three years in 1973, and perhaps that's why the tone outside the team remains wary.

Inside the four walls of their Carton House base, however, the squad are looking after themselves and approaching Saturday's game in the same way they would any other.

The old French aura of invincibility means little.

And why not? There are those within the panel who have never lost to France, and two draws and a win in their last four meetings sure won't put much fear in an Ireland team riding high on confidence after a hugely successful 2014.

"They're a very tough opponent," Conor Murray said. "I've been lucky against them: the last three times we've played them I've drawn twice and beat them narrowly last year over there. But they are still loaded with really good players who can pull rabbits out of hats at times.

"They are a really strong team. I suppose we've got to pat ourselves on the back a little bit - we've played well against them in the last couple of years.

"You look at the game last season: France played their best game of the season against us and we were able to deal with that and come away with a result.

"I'm aware that France are a really, really good team. They have a strong squad with world-class players in it. I think we've just managed to perform well against them, and they raise their game when they play us."

It helps when you can pick from a strong panel, and with Jamie Heaslip, Johnny Sexton, Cian Healy, Eoin Reddan and Dave Kearney back fit and Sean O'Brien and Rory Best not being ruled out just yet, Joe Schmidt has more options at his disposal than he's had for some time.

And Murray is not too bothered about the fact that the returning players did not get a chance to work off some cobwebs in the win over Italy last weekend.

"For the group that was playing, firstly, it will be a challenge to iron out those things but for the lads who are potentially coming back into the team, they've been in the squad for the last few weeks and have been in the team doing reps," he said.

"They have a full understanding of how we wanted to play against Italy, they've seen the game, they know what we're trying to fix. They'll be at training this afternoon and repping it out, trying to do it.

"It is a challenge that they weren't there against Italy and feel their way through it but we've a big week's training.

"We could have been a bit more clinical and accurate, taken advantage of more opportunities. But at least we had those opportunities and we can try and fix them, take them into next week. We are in a good place and looking for a good week's training to iron out a few things."

Irish Independent

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