Sunday 19 November 2017

Jordi Murphy: The competition for World Cup places is just ridiculous

Jordi Murphy checks out a boat ahead of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta
Jordi Murphy checks out a boat ahead of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Jordi Murphy is growing accustomed to the rigorous demands of Ireland camp but come two months, if as expected, he is included in Joe Schmidt's World Cup squad, it will be an experience that is completely alien to him.

It's easy to forget that the 24-year old made his international debut just last year but even as a supporter, Murphy has never felt the unique buzz of a World Cup.

He is relying on the more senior players to share their experiences, which is slightly strange, given that Murphy himself feels as if he has assumed a bit more of a leadership role in the 45-man extended squad.

The former Blackrock College student is rooming with the uncapped Tadhg Furlong and he explains how he is trying to pass down what he learned when he first broke into the squad.

"The fact that people like Tadhg and Jack Conan are coming in, those kind . . . well I'm not too old now myself," Murphy smiles.

"I like to give a helping hand when I can. I remember my first few camps and it was quite daunting.

"I hardly consider myself a senior player yet. I got help from the likes of Ian Madigan and Rhys (Ruddock) who had been there before. I kind of feel like it's my duty now to help those new guys out as much as I can."

The fact that Murphy has never been to a World Cup before fuels his burning desire to ensure he is part of Schmidt's plans once the squad has been trimmed to 31. His versatility is one of his major strengths but with so much competition for places in the back-row, he knows there is no room for complacency.

"I've never been to a World Cup game. I've always just watched them on the TV," he admits rather sheepishly. "I wish I had gone to a World Cup as a supporter and then if I was to get picked as a player, I could compare it.

"The Six Nations is fantastic and in the November internationals you're playing the best southern hemisphere teams, but the fact that the World Cup is all of the countries coming together makes it even more special.

"I haven't been to one so I don't know what it's like but I'd say it's pretty incredible.

"One of my strengths is definitely to give a coach that kind of versatile option. I've been asked a 100 times where I'd like to play and being honest, I've always said it's more 7 or 8, but then I was playing more at 6 for Leinster at the end of last season and I was happy to play there."

Ruddock's recurring arm injury means that there is one less back-row fighting it out for a place in the squad, and as a Leinster team-mate and close friend, Murphy understands the fine margins at the highest level.

Following a week with their provinces, the Ireland players will reconvene in Galway today, as the intensity begins to increase.

"It's very exciting. With the amount of strength and depth that we have, the squad is constantly developing The competition for places in Ireland at the moment is ridiculous," Murphy says.

"Everyone knows what's expected of them at this stage. A lot of it is player-driven and I definitely think that's the best way to do it.

"You know what's at stake - a place in the World Cup squad - so you're trying to do every little bit you can to try and get an edge.

Physical

"I'm sure it'll start getting a bit edgy around the warm-up games but at the moment everyone is just trying to get to the top of their physical fitness.

"There's not really any bitterness at all in camp. Everyone goes out and does their absolute best and then it's up to the coaching staff to pick who they want to play for them."

If all goes according to Murphy's plan, he will be playing non-stop for the next year. It's a relentless schedule but one that is dealt with on a step-by-step basis.

"It's not daunting at all. I'm just really looking forward to it. It's a massive opportunity that I and the rest of the lads have," he acknowledges.

"I'm not thinking about winning a World Cup. My first goal is to get into the squad. That's the prize at the moment for me.

"It's going to be one of those things that if I do make the squad, it'll be great but it'll be another goal ticked off and then it's onto a new goal. I'm not going to have my head in the clouds if I do get picked.

"As a squad, we're trying not to think too far ahead. We need to keep chugging along and work on all the extra little things. If we do that, the sky is the limit really."

Jordi Murphy drives a Volvo V40 from Spirit Motor Group in Sandyford, who are co-sponsors of the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta, which takes place this weekend

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