Saturday 24 August 2019

Murphy: Making World Cup squad the main reason I joined Ulster

Ulster's Jordi Murphy has his eye on the World Cup squad. Photo: Morgan Treacy
Ulster's Jordi Murphy has his eye on the World Cup squad. Photo: Morgan Treacy
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

This time last season, Jordi Murphy had just started in a Champions Cup semi-final as he played a major role in helping Leinster on their way to the Bilbao decider.

Three weeks later, Murphy saw off stiff competition to retain his place in the XV as Leinster clinched their fourth European title. Then before he knew it, it was all over and he was starting a new chapter up north.

A year is a long time in top-level professional sport and Murphy realised that last weekend as he watched his former team make it back to another final.

Not that the 28-year-old has any regrets, however, particularly because his form for Ulster has been so good this season, while he is also getting a consistent run in his preferred openside position.

Ultimately, making the switch was all about ensuring that Murphy makes the World Cup squad, and even though he probably would have ended up playing plenty of big games for Leinster this year, he knows that his chances of making the plane to Japan have been enhanced by moving to Ulster.

"Look, that was the number one reason for me looking to move," Murphy said at a Kingspan Ulster Rugby media event in Dublin.

"I was at the last World Cup, it obviously didn't end the way we wanted. I played a bit of a part in some of those games but I absolutely want to get on the plane to Japan. I am not hiding that from anyone. I said that was my number one intention when I moved up."

Murphy was outstanding when Ulster came up agonisingly short against Leinster in the Champions Cup quarter-final earlier this month.

International Rugby Newsletter

Rugby insights and commentary from our renowned journalists like Neil Francis, Will Slattery, Alan Quinlan & Cian Tracey.

That won't have gone unnoticed by Joe Schmidt, who has regularly selected Murphy due his versatility.

Dan Leavy's absence means that there is a back-row spot up for grabs and while Murphy might well have made the squad anyway, there is no doubt that his chances of doing so are now much greater.

Leavy's horrific leg injury has reopened the debate about the lack of protection that players get when 'jackaling' at the breakdown.

Like Leavy, Murphy is an excellent poacher of the ball and he insists that players who put their bodies in that vulnerable position should be better protected. "I just think it is something that is not refereed enough," he says. "There are plenty of times when I am over the ball and I feel like I am getting hit from the side.

"There are less times I can count on my hand where I can remember the ref blowing and saying, 'You have come in on the side and hit him.'

"They come out with agendas all the time to referee certain parts - maybe that's a part they need to start cracking down on because when the refs are told to do something you really notice the penalty rate for that area go up through the roof.

"If you are going to take that out of the game, it would be stupid. It is one of the best parts, that you can contest the ball."

Irish Independent

The Left Wing: The 'hell' of World Cup training camp, Ireland's half-back dilemma and All Blacks uncertainty

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport