Wednesday 23 January 2019

'Was I happy to be purely a PRO 14 player' - How asking tough questions saw Jordi Murphy decide to leave Leinster

1 December 2018; Jordi Murphy, left, and John Cooney of Ulster the Guinness PRO14 Round 10 match between Ulster and Cardiff Blues at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
1 December 2018; Jordi Murphy, left, and John Cooney of Ulster the Guinness PRO14 Round 10 match between Ulster and Cardiff Blues at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Ireland back row Jordi Murphy says that the lure of regularly starting big Champions Cup games persuaded him to swap Leinster for Ulster last summer.

After seven seasons with Leinster, Murphy departed at the end of last season's double-winning campaign, with the 27-year-old starting the Champions Cup final in Bilbao at number eight in one of his farewell games.

After falling down the international pecking order, and with a huge number of top back rows at Leinster fighting for game time, Murphy opted to move to Ulster to continue his development.

The move has already been a success, with Murphy playing a big part in Ulster's resurgence this season, with the team securing bonus point wins over the Scarlets in the recent back-to-back Champions Cup fixtures.

Speaking on The Left Wing, Independent.ie's rugby podcast, Murphy said that not starting regularly for Leinster in the big games made him reassess his future.

"I came to a crossroads in my career," Murphy said.

"I wasn't really getting selected a lot at Leinster for big Champions Cup weekends. It came to a point where I was seeing a bit more of the bench or not being involved at all, rather than getting the starts. Having a few discussions with the coaches at that time, I just decided it was time to move on."

Another reason Murphy cites for leaving Leinster was his desire to stake his claim for Ireland selection. After talking to Joe Schmidt following his omission from the 2017 autumn squad, Murphy realised that more game time would put him in the international shop window.

"I wasn't selected last year in the November squad," Murphy said.

"I just hadn't played enough and that is one of the things that Joe said. I had played a couple of league games but not the big European games, and if international coaches are comparing anything to international rugby, then it's those top European games. I had look abroad to the UK but with the World Cup on the horizon, it was a no-brainer after a week or two of thinking about it."

Leinster's strength in depth means that like Murphy during his time with the team, there are a number of talented players in the squad who must survive on limited game time.

Murphy says that he had to ask himself some tough questions about his professional aspirations, after which he decided that moving on would be best.

"It was a question of whether I was happy to be there, and just be in the picture but more in the background," Murphy said.

"I had been at Leinster for seven years so in a way, I was in my comfort zone. I had never lived outside the bubble of south Dublin. I had woken up every day and headed to UCD and then headed home and I didn't really know anything outside of that. I know it's only two hours away but this is a different environment.

"I had to decide whether I was happy to be purely a PRO 14 player, where I was always selected for away games in Italy and Wales but when it came for a big fixture against a French or English side, was I less likely to be selected. They were the kind of questions I was asking myself."

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