Conor Murray: ‘Christmas was really beneficial for our squad’
Munster have used interpros effectively, and win over Connacht sets them up for Europe
Munster’s Conor Murray in action against Connacht in the Sportsground, Galway on Saturday. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
For Conor Murray, this was a relatively rare experience. For only the fifth time in the last five seasons, he was employed as a replacement. He brought all his experience to bear in keeping Connacht at arm’s length and running down the clock.
For the first 50 minutes, his team-mates had managed the game effectively in his absence.
“Yeah, I was impressed with what I saw. It can be a tough game against Connacht because they do attack a lot. They like to counter-attack, they’re dangerous.
“I thought, coming on, just to fit in and get into our system, but there was a good calmness about us, especially when we went under pressure late in the game. There was just a good clarity and we knew what we were about and we executed a lot of what we were trying to do pretty well.
“There’s never the perfect game, but a really good performance to build into Europe, I think.”
All in all, Munster have used the interpro series effectively after the disappointment of losing away to Castres, which has left them atop a fiercely competitive Pool 2. All four sides are in contention, with Gloucester four points off Munster in fourth place.
Munster managed a bonus point from their trek to Ulster with an experimental side before beating Leinster and backing it up with this bonus point win.
“Those three interpros over Christmas, and rotations in the squad, a lot of lads who are close to the team get a bit of gametime and who knows what will happen next week with selection, with injuries or whatever,” said Murray. “So I think the Christmas period was really beneficial for our squad.”
Our goal at the moment is obviously to finish as high in the table as we can but get into the play-offs
Despite the defeat, Connacht remain in the hunt for the play-offs in Conference A, and intend remaining so, according to their young back-rower Paul Boyle, who is having as good a rookie season as any player on the provincial circuit.
“At the start of the season we set out to win but the main goal was the Pro14 play-offs and Champions Cup qualification,” said Boyle. “Our goal at the moment is obviously to finish as high in the table as we can but get into the play-offs, and we really fancy our chances if we do.”
Shifted to the blindside for this game, it meant the 21-year-old former Irish Under-20 captain and Leinster player was in direct opposition with Peter O’Mahony.
“I did get up close and personal with him a couple of times, in fairness. He is a brilliant player. Playing against a fella like that you can always learn. He had a great game tonight. He got a couple of nice turnovers.
“Their number eight Arno Botha was good as well. They have a serious back row and I am playing against those lads. I am trying to match myself against them and I am just learning at the same time.
“He is brilliant at a lot of things but cuteness is probably one of his best qualities. It’s just bit of nous in and around the breakdown, and at line-out time he is very good. Hopefully down the line if I do get into an Irish set-up I can learn off players like that. Peter O’Mahony is certainly a player you can learn off.”
Asked if he would model himself on the Munster captain, Boyle said: “I don’t know whether I model myself on him now, but he is one of them guys that you strive to be better than. You have to look at it that way.”