Monday 18 November 2019

Murray determined to repay Schmidt's faith and break French duck

Ireland's Conor Murray: 'We have huge clarity within our squad'
Ireland's Conor Murray: 'We have huge clarity within our squad'
David Kelly

David Kelly

He didn't know it then, but the random breath from a stranger on a city centre street seven days ago carried the potential to completely derail Conor Murray's 2014 Six Nations title challenge.

He wasn't to know it then, but a rogue virus had wormed its way into his body, enervating his physical condition which was then utterly flattened by a rambunctious physical challenge from high-flying Leonardo Sarto early in act one.

Eoin Reddan emerged to gleefully play his part in a wonderfully attacking display, enlisting his verve and brio to aid the Brian O'Driscoll-inspired rout of the stunned Azzurri.

Murray would have been forgiven for assuming that the next breath he encountered would be accompanied by Joe Schmidt's consolatory arm around his shoulder as he proffered a quiet, jolting word.

Not so.

Murray (right), now fully restored to health, will be at the frontline of Ireland's championship challenge as he returns to the country where he so impressed as an international novice just three years ago.

"I had a stomach bug," he explains when asked to confirm his premature ejection from last Saturday's celebratory occasion in Dublin 4. "The night before the game I was just throwing up. The doctor said I could have got it off anyone breathing on me. It was just a bit of bad luck. It was the worst possible timing.

"Then, I got a bit of a bang early in the first half when I took a high ball. I didn't manage to recover. I couldn't shake it. I just couldn't continue. I felt pretty down and out."

There may be only 15 starters every week, but the squad are as one and, nominally, each player is freely interchangeable. Murray, though, remains the clear preference.

He is disinclined to either gloat or wallow in humility, for Murray practically stares down Kipling's twin impostors of success and failure with robotic serenity.

"Within our squad at the moment we have players in each position that can switch in and add to the team, not just fulfil a role," he states, reaffirming the guiding ethos that has chaired them to the brink of glory.

"They can really bring their own individual traits to the team. Eoin did really well last week.

"In saying that, Joe's been happy with me in the tournament and I am happy he has stuck with me this week.

"Again, it is a squad game and I'm sure Redser will have an impact on the game as well. I've just got to do as well as I can for as long as I can."

Plucked from relative obscurity by Declan Kidney prior to the last World Cup, Murray debuted on French soil, but that 2011 loss to Bordeaux and two successive draws against Les Bleus mean victory has eluded his grasp.

Until now, he hopes – an aspiration predicated upon a certainty in what all his colleagues are doing.

"We have huge clarity within our squad," he adds. "Every player understands his role pretty much perfectly and knows what's required of him.

"Assuming we're leading late in the game, we have plays we can go to that everyone is fully confident in doing.

"Joe has instilled belief in us that if we perform and do our roles properly, there is going to be a result at the end of it.

"And there is another great thing within our squad – confidence.

"We're all a competitive bunch of players. It's our final and if we lose out on a trophy, it will be bitterly disappointing."

Irish Independent

The Left Wing: Champions Cup preview, the World Cup hangover and Joe Schmidt's next team

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport