Saturday 21 September 2019

'We're good mates now' - Conor Murray on his partnership with Johnny Sexton and 'clashes' at the 2011 World Cup

Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton
Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton Newsdesk Newsdesk

Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton have formed one of the most feared half-back partnerships in world rugby but it didn't just happen overnight.

"I always just blame the outside backs when he's in one of his fits to deflect away from me," Murray jokes.

The Munster scrumhalf tends to escape the worst of Sexton's famous on-field tirades now, but that wasn't always the case.

"You've probably seen Johnny on TV visually being annoyed at things that are happening," he told's rugby podcast The Left Wing, in association with Laya Healthcare.

"To be honest and definitely at the start, at the 2011 World Cup, we had a few moments where he wanted a ball played to the forwards and at that age I was just playing rugby and I wouldn't really listen and I'd throw it out the back to him and he wasn't ready to get the ball.

"We had a few clashes during that World Cup that definitely stood to us going down the road further. It's just about getting to know someone.

"Particularly over the last few years, Johnny and I are good mates now and I think that's really important and it transfers onto the pitch."

Jonathan Sexton, right, issues instructions to scrum-half Conor Murray as Ronan O'Gara looks on during the 2011 Rugby World Cup

Murray and Sexton dovetailed beautifully as Ireland secured a third ever Grand Slam title this year and the 29-year-old attributes their fluency in attack to the ability to read each other's body language.

"At times if I want to do my own thing and wanna go down the blindside and it doesn't work, he'll rarely, unless it doesn't work or it's a terrible decision, give out to ya badly. He'll just say, 'Have a look up at me'," he added.

"Something we've worked at over the years is constantly being in eye contact with each other because stadiums and arenas you're playing in can be really loud and it 's about a feel and kinda half-knowing where he's going next."

Their understanding was never more evident during Ireland's incredible 41 phase attack that led to Sexton's miraculous, match-winning drop goal at the Stade de France in February.

"A little example of that was the drop goal in France. We looked at each other two or three times when the forwards were picking and going. It was just a slight nod when I knew he wanted to take it on.

"Thankfully it was quick ball and we pulled the trigger and it all worked out.

"That's a really good example but there are other examples where I haven't looked up or I've had my head in the ruck and he tells me, 'You need to look at me more and see where I'm going'.

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