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'We've only seen one game of that' - Luke Fitzgerald warns against Conor Murray complacency after improvement

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John Cooney and Conor Murray. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

John Cooney and Conor Murray. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

John Cooney and Conor Murray. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Ex-Ireland international Luke Fitzgerald has warned Conor Murray against complacency after the Irish Independent's Cian Tracey said the Munster scrum-half's Welsh performance had "reminded the naysayers just why he remains first-choice."

The pair were speaking on the latest Left Wing, Independent.ie's rugby podcast in association with Land Rover, with the naming of Andy Farrell's team since confirming that Ulster's John Conney will remain in reserve.

And while both agreed that Murray has been much improved since the World Cup, exactly when the improvement began proved a bone of contention.

"I think Murray has been excellent over the first two games. He's really played his way back into form and I think he will definitely be looking to expose Tom Curry," Tracey said.

"He was good against Scotland. I know it was only the Ospreys but he was good in that Ospreys game. It was an excellent performance against Wales.

"I just think it's become like Peter O'Mahony and CJ Standers, it's easy to kick these lads when they're down. I don't think he's been stinking the joint out that much.

"If you're a nine out of 10 most weeks and you drop if you drop below that, I think it becomes much more noticeable then if you're an eight out of 10 or a seven out of 10 player because the margins aren't as fine."

However, Fitzgerald viewed the Six Nations opener differently, stating: "I don't agree with that at all. It's one decent performance.

"I thought he was excellent against Wales. but didn't think he had a great game against Scotland.

"Part of the issue is that there was a guy probably playing 10 out of 10 since the start of the season. People are asking the question 'Is his (Murray's) nine out of 10 or his eight out of 10 better than this guy's 10 out of 10?'

"John Cooney was excellent when he came off for his 20-minute cameo against Scotland, I thought he was excellent for the few minutes he got against Wales as well although it was only a few minutes.

"It's not that we're kicking guys when they're down. It's right to ask the questions around the personnel, particularly given on the biggest stage lots of people didn't play that well.

"I was advocating for him to still be in the team afterwards but I thought it was a very tight selection call. I don't think we're knocking guys, I think we're rightfully asking questions about it."

Whatever about the Scotland game, there's no question that Murray seemed back on song against Wales which has provided encouragement going into Sunday's Triple Crown decider against England.

And it's the improved speed of hand that gave Fitzgerald cause for cautious optimism as Ireland seek an outcome few thought possible after both respective country's Japanese performances.

"I saw parts of it in Connor's game, particularly against Scotland, where he was just nesting on the ball over too long. Just a little bit laboured, a little bit slow to make decisions," he concluded.

"He's shown that he can play that fast-paced game and that he can be that guy. Maybe he took on too much responsibility in the Joe Schmidt era and was probably doing a little bit too much thinking.

"Sometimes that can be a problem at nine. Sometimes you're not supposed to make every single decision, you're supposed to just facilitate the team. Other guys are making the decisions, you're just getting the ball to them.

"I thought the turnaround in that Wales game was that he was just feeding and getting the ball into Johnny's hands, getting the ball into his forward's hands. It's on them to be in position.

"That was the big change. For me, if he wants to keep his place, that's what he needs to do week in, week out. We've only seen one game of that."

Online Editors