‘It was probably the toughest seven minutes of rugby I’ve ever played’
Jordi Murphy reflects on his first Ireland cap as he prepares to take on Munster
Jordi Murphy: “It’s always the ultimate test against Munster.”
When Jordi Murphy heard his name called out on that Tuesday morning he matter-of-factly accepted a reality that had been a childhood dream (at least since moving to Dublin from Barcelona as a nine year old).
“It took a few seconds to sink in and then I realised, okay, Twickenham this weekend, hopefully I’ll get a run-out.”
Not that it wasn’t earned, but a feeling existed that Tommy O’Donnell had done nothing to deserve exclusion. The Munster flanker’s athleticism was seen in Toronto last summer and off the bench against Scotland and Wales.
Even tonight Shane Jennings, Leinster organiser-in-chief, keeps Murphy benched as O’Donnell wears red number seven.
But the rise of Jordi – named by his Catalonian-dwelling parents after the patron saint of the region, alá Johan Cruyff’s son – seems imminent.
Outstanding performances at number eight around the turn of the year and the ability to be a linking flanker makes him the ideal impact player.
But that Tuesday morning last month was the biggest leap yet for the 22-year-old.
“I was thinking ‘why would he change it after winning two games in a row?,’” said Murphy this week at an Under Armour gig in Santry Stadium where he rubbed shoulders with Donegal captain Michael Murphy (the rare sight of a Gaelic footballer being slightly bigger than a rugby player).
“Before the team announcement Joe lets you know if you haven’t made it. Before England he didn’t say anything to me.
“There was no point getting my hopes up as they could be shattered straight away. Then he called my name out . . . ”
We know what happened next. The one that got away; caught in the maelstrom of English power.
Murphy waded into the last seven minutes of it.
“I thought I did okay. I was nervous before the game and everything like that but grand during the warm-up. When my name was called I was straight on the job.”
Schmidt mantras are embedded in his brain.
Get on the ball. Inject some energy.
“That is what Joe always wants from his subs.”
So much happened from the moment he stalled on the touchline until standing over the white rubble where Gordon D’Arcy was buried 10 minutes later.
“It was probably the toughest seven minutes of rugby I’ve ever played.”
After a pat on the back from Ireland manager Mick Kearney, himself and Seán Cronin entered the most brutal of rugby environments in the 74th minute. A battered Chris Henry made way as Iain Henderson had already relieved the hamstrung Peter O’Mahony.
Lineout on halfway. Cronin hits Paul O’Connell and Murphy is immediately driving the maul.
Schmidt’s Ireland in freeze frame. Inject some energy.
75th minute. Ireland counter-attack. Jordi hits a ruck. Secures the ball. Hits another ruck. And another.
77th minute: He carries and is tackled by the day’s outstanding performer Joe Launchbury. Next he trucks up as part of a three-man pod. Then he’s a pillar on the far side of the field. Back inside Ireland’s 22, Conor Murray sends him crashing into two English behemoths. He refuses to be grounded until outside Ireland’s 22.
‘Swing Low’ is reverberating around the ground.
Play has gone left, right, left, right, up and back down the field since his arrival.
This is Test rugby.
The toughest seven minutes?
“Without a doubt. You can tell straight away. But I loved it.”
79th minute: Ireland attack wide right again. Henderson carries half a yard. Murray flings it to his outhalf. But Murphy is there. He quickly feeds D’Arcy who finds Dave Kearney. Launchbury’s tap-tackle stops Kearney. Mike Brown is over the ball. Jordi arrives and removes the England fullback. Jack McGrath humps it up the middle.