Jordi Murphy makes the most of Jamie Heaslip’s absence
Leinster head coach Matt O’Connor feels at the age of 22, he has plenty of time to specialise
Leinster’s Jordi Murphy is tackled by Ulster’s Craig Gilroy in Saturday night’s game. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Timing in life is everything. Be it a man’s career or sporting endeavour or in this case both. Jordi Murphy cannot but be aware of the bigger picture looming overhead.
In the same moment Jamie Heaslip is in France discussing his future with Toulon and Montpellier, his understudy is bowling Andrew Trimble and Ricky Andrew out of the way like skittles.
Some try, thanks in part to Luke Fitzgerald’s blossoming skills, but Murphy’s was some performance in general against Ulster on Saturday night. Perfect timing really.
Still only 22, his rise would have been meteoric if not for Heaslip and a succession of hand, ankle and hamstring problems.
The warning signs were seen though. Just over a year ago Leinster bumped him from academy to development and further glimpses of his ferocity ensured a senior provincial contract was eventually offered and signed.
He looks every inch a number eight, as Rhys Ruddock does a blindside and Dominic Ryan an openside. It’s the Leinster succession strategy evolving before our eyes.
‘At the base’
“He’d be the first to tell you he’s a bit of work to do at the base,” said the wily Matt O’Connor. “I thought we had dominance at the scrum and probably didn’t get enough pay out of that relative to the last 20 minutes of the game, with Jack (McGrath) and Mike (Ross) on there.”
That’s a clever public utterance from any boss; highlight the flaws that separate protégée from finished article like Heaslip. Keep him ravenous.
“He’s a good player. At 22 there is plenty of time for him to specialise. His versatility is very helpful to us.”
Murphy first appeared as a brilliant openside flanker in the 2008 Blackrock side that lost to Clongowes Wood. The following year he was captain and outstanding performer in the best schools team seen in Ireland since 1996.
What is apparent from recent performances and particularly Saturday night is that Murphy, much like Jonathan Sexton’s departure gave Ian Madigan his moment to thrive, would profit the most from Heaslip opting to taste Top 14 cuisine.
“To be honest I haven’t been thinking about that,” said Murphy. “I just look week to week and try to play as well as I can. There is good healthy competition. We obviously wouldn’t want to lose a player of Jamie’s ability at this club. Whoever gets the chance to play plays and does their best.”
Still, patience must be a virtue when scrambling for air in the Leinster backrow pool. “It’s just about grafting hard. You can’t complain. If you complain you are not thinking about the task at hand. Obviously some of the Irish lads have been rested in the last week and it has been a chance for the younger lads to step up,” said Murphy.
“But I don’t think we are inexperienced any more. Between myself Rhys, Dippy and a few of the younger lads coming through we got dozens of caps under our belts.
“There are a few Lions players in our backrow which is brilliant for competition.
“I wouldn’t call it frustrating. When you get a chance you take your chance. If you keep playing well they are going to have to pick you week in week out.”
So, Ryan is a seven, Ruddock a blindside and you’re a number eight now, right?
“I’ll play wherever you play me.”