'Exciting playmaker' Fitzgerald will give us another dimension, insists Conor Murray
Two weeks ago, when Conor Murray lay crumpled in a heap on the Twickenham turf, for a moment at least, Ireland’s World Cup hopes were left dandling by a thread.
Such is the scrum-half’s importance to Ireland, Joe Schmidt could ill afford to head into the tournament without him.
Murray was forced off in the first half after suffering concussion and with the new head injury assessment (HIA), he faced an anxious wait to be given the green light.
The Limerick native will start in Ireland’s opening World Cup game against Canada on Saturday and although he didn't feel any ill effects after the bang to the head, he admitted that he was relieved to pass the return to play protocols.
“You have to wait and then there could be the possibility of a delayed onset, so you have to hope that (missing the World Cup) doesn’t happen,” Murray recalled.
“But even at the time I had a fair idea I just got an unlucky bang and was pretty much okay straight afterwards.
“It’s the precaution and you have to respect that, we’re all educated in how serious concussion is nowadays and the spotlight that’s put on it and I have no issue with coming off like that.
“It was the right call. If I had stayed on and got another bang it could have been a lot worse, so these measures are right and I think every player’s aware.”
Murray may have been passed fit but Robbie Henshaw misses out with a hamstring strain. Schmidt is hopeful that the centre will be fit in time to play Romania next weekend but in his absence, Luke Fitzgerald gets a chance to impress.
Fitzgerald’s luckless run of injuries has meant that he is yet to play at a World Cup but Murray maintained that he is primed to take his opportunity.
“Lukey is in there now and he’s slotted in really well in training,” Murray said.
“We still have 30 players, 15 on 15 going at it in training. We had a great session today, really intense and the guys who aren’t involved are really helping the starters and the subs to get a good, intense high quality session.
“They’re throwing plays at us that we think the Canadians might use and they’re running them really well which is putting us under pressure which is exactly what we need.
“I remember throughout all of last season, we had players stepping in and out of the team and come in at late notice and Luke is no different.
“He knows the structure and game plan and he’s got confidence in himself that he can come in and do a really good job and bring his own individual game to the party as well.
“He’s obviously played an awful lot with Johnny (Sexton) and Lukey is a playmaker as well. That will be another string to our bow come Saturday.
“He is a flair player. He’s a very exciting player and I’m looking forward to playing with him.”
Ireland’s stuttering starts at World Cups have been well documented and despite the fact that they come into the tournament on the back of two consecutive defeats, Murray insisted that they are in a good place, two days out from the meeting with Canada.
“I think if you look at the other opening games, England v Fiji is going to be a cracker of a game and they’re going to have to bring their A game.
“They’re going to start at a very high level and we want to do that too. We’re under no illusions that it’s going to be a tough task and we want to start on the front foot and start getting good performances together.
“We’ve had a good build up of four games but we want to try and fix a few things that didn’t go so well and continue on the upward curve.”