Monday 21 January 2019

'We have to go up another level' - Conor Murray lays down the challenge to team-mates ahead of England showdown

12 March 2018; Conor Murray speaking during an Ireland Rugby Press Conference at Carton House, in Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
12 March 2018; Conor Murray speaking during an Ireland Rugby Press Conference at Carton House, in Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Conor Murray believes Ireland must step up another level to beat England and claim a Grand Slam and says it would top any of his other achievements in a glittering career.

Victory over Scotland has set Joe Schmidt’s team up for a shot at history in Twickenham on Saturday having secured a third Six Nations title in five years.

England have lost their mantle of champions having suffered successive defeats for the first time in Eddie Jones’ tenure, but they have won all 14 games on home soil under the Australian.

And Murray believes that the visiting team will have to go up a gear to finish the job.

"Every game is different, every game we’ve learned something about ourselves; we’ve addressed it in the meeting room, we’ve ironed it out in training, and it’s got better," he said.

"We’ve got better in every game in this championship. But good as we’ve been, it won’t be good enough against England. We will have to go to another level to beat England."

And he reckons that level is within their capacity.

"100%. We've done some really good things in this Championship, we've played really well. A lot of the things we've trained for, or thought would happen have happened," he said.

"On the other side, there's always something with every team, you never play the perfect game, maybe you're trying to do that so there's always fixes - definitely with this group, with the experience, the new guys coming in, the younger generation that have added so much, there's something there, there's another level that we're striving towards."

Murray admitted that the success last Saturday was a strange one given the size and scale of the week ahead.

"It was a bit of a weird feeling on Saturday, watching the England game and knowing we had effectively won it, and just by people’s reactions… obviously we said ‘well done’ to each other, but there’s something more that we want, and that’s going to be our focus this week,” he said.

"Being champions going into the last round, you’ve got to take confidence from that, that happened for a reason, we’ve worked hard for that; it’ll give us confidence going into this week, but we won’t get carried away with ourselves. It’s the flip of what happened last year (against England in Dublin) and we know what England’s motivation is going to be.

"We know how tough it is over there, we know all the things that’ll be coming into this game. It was a bit weird winning (the championship) with a week left, but there’s a hunger in this playing group, coaching group, everyone involved, that we want to go one more."

The scrum-half has won two Six Nations titles and a Lions series, but he conceded that a Slam would go down as a career highlight.

"Be up there, probably up there at the top. Only Rob and Rory are left that have done a Slam and we can start talking about it now, because that's what's in front of us if things go well.

"The motivation is in our group and it's about how we (avoid) getting into distraction of all that and go about our business like we usually do in a matchweek with something really special to play for.

"It's not daunting, it's a massive occasion, but it's one  this group is going to enjoy and relish.

"We do have the ability, it's just about getting that performance together and trying to nail it as best we can.

"It's just a big occasion. It's a massive occasion and one a lot of lads haven't faced into before. There's a lot of lads in the group that have played in massive, massive games and know how to go about a big matchweek.

"That's there, it's a comforting thing to have. There's a crop of younger players in this group that the older, more experienced players can guide through the week. I wouldn't have any fears about the younger players, they're just so good at rugby that it comes so naturally to them.

"if there's a bit of advice here and there that older lads can give, I'm sure we will. That's the challenge of a unique week we have."

Ireland are having a light work out at their Kildare base today and the IRFU said they have no major injury concerns ahead of the finale.

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