'Racked with doubt? No. We know how good we can be'- Conor Murray
As one of the seasoned campaigners and tactical linchpins in the Ireland squad, Conor Murray has been advising the newcomers to the set-up on how best to meet Joe Schmidt’s exacting standards.
Aside from those he had previously coached at Leinster, many of the Ireland players who had never worked under Joe Schmidt have admitted to being slightly overwhelmed, when first encountering his keen eye for detail and, indeed, error.
The Kiwi is as hard a taskmaster as they come but he invariably improves any player he spends a concentrated period of time with. Over the last two and a half years the regular faces in his Irish squads now know exactly what’s expected of them.
However, Schmidt named five uncapped players in his larger group for the Championship to come thus, those wide-eyed newbies mainly have his reputation to go on as a reference point.
With 42 caps to his name, Conor Murray has found himself fielding queries from the youngsters as they seek to make their mark.
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“The likes of Ultan Dillane and Josh van der Flier, lads that have played really well for their provinces coming into the set-up, they come up to you quietly and ask a few questions, a few things they want to be sured up on.
“I think it was like when Joe came into the set-up first, we had been here for a couple of years and lads that weren’t from Leinster were unsure about him and didn’t know what he was looking for so there was a little heads up.
“There are little pieces of advice that you can give the younger lads, things that Joe will really look out for on the training pitch, the standards that he expects you to uphold. There’s been plenty of that,” Murray said.
Of course, curiosity is rife as to how, after winning consecutive Six Nations, the morale in the Irish camp is in wake of the crushing loss to Argentina in the World Cup quarter-final.
Murray claims that shortcomings have been reviewed, dealt with and put to bed. And, even though Ireland are without a host of front-liners, there’s more than enough experience and quality in situ for the campaign ahead, starting with Wales at the Aviva Stadium.
“Racked with doubt? Not really, no. We’re a realistic team. We analyse ourselves and we review ourselves pretty honestly. We know where our shortfalls were in that World Cup game (Argentina). At the same time we saw a lot of opportunities in that game that we didn’t take, but we created.
“There are leaders gone, Paulie (O’Connell), and Cian (Healy) and (Mike Ross) Rossy missing, but there’s lads like Nathan (White) and Jack(NGrath) stepping in, and Devin (Toner) and Mike (McCarthy) in the second row and they are experienced campaigners. They have been around for big games.
“As a team, we know how good we can be. We’ve done as much as we can do in training so hopefully that will come out on Sunday,” he said