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Friday 9 December 2016

Jordi Murphy: Stop George Ford and we'll stop Bath

Leinster will target Bath out-half for Champions Cup last-eight spot

Leinster's Jordi Murphy
Leinster's Jordi Murphy
George Ford

Jordi Murphy is all too aware Leinster will have to subdue Bath's George Ford.

"He's quite the superstar," said the loose-forward.

"He's got the all-round game, doesn't he? He's very young but he's got a lot of confidence.

"He's very creative, has a good boot and really knows how to run a backline well."

There is a great deal of deception to what Ford does and he is a real threat on the gain line.

"You've obviously got to watch his show-and-go all the time and try and put pressure on him.

"Like every good out-half, he's where they look to, to get the back line moving. I think he's definitely one of the targets for us."

The entire back row will have to monitor Ford's movements and exquisite distribution to corral his impact in the Champions Cup quarter-final on Saturday afternoon.

George Ford.jpg

George Ford

In fact, the Leinster breakaway unit is a cramped working space these days unless you are Jamie Heaslip or Seán O'Brien.

The list is long, and longer on talent, as half a dozen able professionals battle it out over one jersey, most likely with the number six on the back of it.

There are Rhys Ruddock, Dominic Ryan, Kevin McLaughlin, Jack Conan, Shane Jennings and Jordi Murphy.

Sadly, Ruddock has just undergone surgery for his re-damaged arm, McLaughlin is not quite ready to resume from injury, Conan is a specialist eight, Jennings a nailed-on seven.

On the balance of probability, this leaves Ryan and Murphy to battle it out to start against Bath.

The odds favour Murphy.

He stood in at eight for Heaslip against Italy and edged out in-form Tommy O'Donnell as the impact replacement in the Six Nations endgame against Scotland.

The 24-year-old was most recently seen tearing Glasgow Warriors apart for a rampaging second-half try that formed a part of Leinster's rebound from a 20-point deficit to claim a draw.

"I can't complain. I've been waiting for one of those for a while so definitely happy to get it," he said.

He just managed to fly through that extra portion of space that is not as readily available in the Six Nations.

"Well, obviously, I think at international level it's kind of the best of the best and defences are so tight and there's not really that much room for opportunity.

"It was just one of those things. Zane gave me a good pass and I just found myself in that little bit of space.

"It just kind of opened up a bit and I was fortunate enough to be able to go under."

Murphy will take that line a hundred times and get nothing out of it unless there is something amiss with the defence.

"No, it's one of those things. It's mostly about luck, about 90% luck I'd say," he admitted.

"That was a pre-planned move for us and I thought we ran it well. (Ben) Te'o did a good job breaking it up and getting some space on the outside.

"Seán Cronin ran a good line with me as well and it kind of gave me that little bit of space. It's just one of those things. That's obviously the end goal, it's what we wanted.

LUCK

"It doesn't always happen. It very rarely happens. It was just a bit of luck on the day and it came off."

Murphy's knows what they say. The harder you work, the luckier you get.

Work rate has never been a chore for a forward who relies on perpetual motion.

Moving on, the test from Glasgow in the PRO12 League last Friday could be seen as the perfect lead-in to Bath as both clubs like to move the ball into space rather than endlessly bash it up.

"We knew that Glasgow would be no mugs. They beat us at the start of the season, and they're top of the table for a reason," he said.

"They obviously had a lot of their Scottish players coming back, so it was definitely good to get a really tough battle under the belt and I think it will set us up well for this week coming."

The most glaring difference is the set-piece power Bath brings to the table through a powerful a scrum, a real weapon, even without tight-head David Wilson.

"They have a physical pack, with the likes of (Stuart) Hooper and (Dave) Attwood, who played most of the games in the Six Nations," said Murphy.

"Then obviously some really creative backs as well. They had the bulk of the English backline with (Anthony) Watson, (Jonathan) Joseph and Ford.

"They've done some job considering they lost the first two games of their group stages in the Champions Cup to come back and do some job on the likes of Toulouse away.

TOUGH BATTLE

"They're a seriously impressive side and it's going to be a tough battle definitely."

It is just as well O'Brien and Heaslip will return to counter the likes of Matt Garvey, Francois Louw and Leroy Houston.

"I think our confidence is good," pushed Murphy.

"We were disappointed with our first half last week. I thought we bounced back well.

"I think we're in a good place and we can only improve.

"This week is going to be big for us."

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