Conor Murray looking to finish on a high after a big step forward
Scrumhalf expects Wales to be well-primed for Cardiff showdown but says Ireland will be ready
Conor Murray: “It’s such a massive occasion, playing Wales away. It’s so much on the line.” Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Amid all the fretting and gnashing of teeth over the form of the Irish team and that of certain key individuals such as Conor Murray, one man wasn’t unduly worried, namely Conor Murray.
The Ireland and Lions scrumhalf feels it is important for him not to read the media or take cognisance of other outside noise, albeit it was hard to completely ignore the hysteria.
“I suppose you feel it when your family is asking you how you are – ‘Yeah, I’m good. Why?’ – there is a bit of pressure on. But I have felt good, I have felt really good. We’ve just been a little bit off for this tournament and Sunday was a really good step forward.
“During that time, you’ve to stay realistic and focus on what hasn’t been working. They’ve been small things, things you can easily fix. I wasn’t panicking and changing the way I’ve been training or the way I view the game, or trying harder within the group.
“I’m really realistic. I’m really honest with myself. I’m working with a couple of video analysts in here and in Munster. I’m looking at my game in detail and it hasn’t been much different lads, I’m sorry to tell you. I’m not sorry to tell you,” he says, correcting himself with a laugh, “but it genuinely hasn’t.”
Murray has long since learned that when a team is off-colour the half-backs usually cop the flak.
“If you look at Sunday, our breakdown was terrific and it allowed us quick ball, allowed us to have a little more time to pick the right option, play our game quicker and have more flow about us. It’s all intertwined. We’re all dependent on each other.”
While anxiety crept in, this was merely a desire to get things right, secure in the knowledge that their best form was not that far away.
“In a way it’s a compliment that people are questioning it. It’s what people are expecting. You kind of took a bit of confidence from it, in a weird way.”
Murray also believes this Irish team will benefit from coming through the England defeat and the shockwaves which followed, albeit that last Sunday’s performance needs to be backed up in Cardiff.
Wales going for the Grand Slam, with Ireland retaining an outside chance of retaining their title, adds to the excitement.
“Cardiff is one of my favourite places to play, the place is going to be electric, their fans are going to expect a Grand Slam, we still have a sniff of a title. We’re looking for a complete performance.
“We want to sign off on the Six Nations with another strong performance before we break up for a while. It’s such a massive occasion, playing Wales away. It’s so much on the line. It’s a big week coming in this Monday. There was a bit more energy. You can feel it after that performance where we played nearly to our potential.
Murray has been coached by Warren Gatland and Rob Howley on two Lions tours and, in tandem with Shaun Edwards and their team leaders, he fully expects Wales to be well primed.
“They will have a really good plan. Those guys have been around for a while, and their record, right now, is really impressive and they are going to be full of confidence. Plus they are at home, and they will have their squad ready.
“There are a few insights we will all have from being coached by the guys. Even looking at their players, we think we know them because we play them quite regularly but they are improving and they are kind of changing their game as well. We have to be careful of thinking we know them.
“They are going to bring something different. They are a different dynamic to even last year. Their back three are really, really dangerous and their defence is full of line speed and we have got to be able to deal with that.
“At the same time there is a lot expected of them as well. We know what it is like going into the last game with the Grand Slam on the line. I was more nervous against England at Twickenham last year than I had been for a long time. Then again, that can drive you on to play even better, so we have got to be really aware of what they’ll bring.”