Easy part over as Conor Murray gets set for the hard work after an impressive start to his career
Ireland’s scrum-half is eager for the game against the All Blacks to begin
Conor Murray during Ireland’s training session at Carton House, Co Kildare. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Conor Murray has been given plenty of advice over the years, from coaches, team-mates, former players, fans et al. But one piece of advice will always stick with him. It was the day he arrived up to training with Munster, having just earned his first professional contract, and amongst those who shook his hands in congratulation was Iain Dowling.
“I remember it so clearly. He goes: ‘The hard work starts now. The easy part is over.’ Getting a contract is the easy bit.’ I always remember that. He was just such a hard trainer and he had won two Heineken Cups, and was still training insanely hard.” Dowling’s advice remains as pertinent now as ever. Murray has returned to the Munster and Irish set-ups this season with his game and reputation enhanced by the Lions tour. Now he knows he has to work insanely hard to make himself better again.
Tournaments/tours seem to suit his mentality. Murray went out to the World Cup as Ireland’s third choice scrum-half and returned as first-choice. From a similar starting point on the Lions’ tour, had there been another Test he’d assuredly have been first-choice after again making rapid strides.
“That was my first Test in 17 (Irish) Tests not starting. Joe is obviously trying to build a squad but you’ve just got to believe in yourself and believe you are number one, and even if you get fewer chances you’ve got to prove that.”
Murray had become more used to making an impact off the bench on the Lions tour when, in addition to starts against the Western Force, the Combined NSW/Qld Country and the Rebels, he was a replacement against the Barbarians, the Brumbies and in the second and third Tests.
“Coming on in a Test, what’s going through my mind, is ‘just do the basics well’. The game might break up and you might put someone through a hole but don’t come on and say ‘I gotta make a break here. I gotta do something special here.’ You’ve got to be patient, and you’ve usually got about 20/25 minutes to do that.”
Murray has always had a quick pass; the criticism being that he took a step or two too many. Yet under Warren Gatland’s Lions, with Rob Howley as backs coach, Murray seemed to fix his feet more and move the ball without taking a step, as well as growing visibly in confidence.