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Thursday 23 March 2017

Simon: Murray is best in the world but we have to watch magic man Hogg

Ireland’s Conor Murray
Ireland’s Conor Murray

The removal of Jonathan Sexton from Ireland's opening match in the Six Nations was enough to send the bookmakers scurrying to reset their odds of beating Scotland.

It also moves a greater load of the responsibility onto Conor Murray as the scrum-half will have to guide Ireland through what are certain to be tough times in Murrayfield. Scrum-half Greig Laidlaw has already spoken of Scotland's commitment to targeting Murray, just like Glasgow Warriors.

There will be intense scrutiny about how they do it now that the Irish scrum-half has made his disgust known for what he saw as dangerous play towards his standing leg.

Ireland's Simon Zebo does not feel the need to look out for his long-standing friend.

"No, no, he's a big boy, he can take care of himself," said the wing wonder.

The Corkman holds the opinion Murray has even overtaken All Black Aaron Smith as the best in the game.

"He's a class act, he's the best in the world, no doubt.

"He's unbelievable, he has every string to his bow.

"There is not one part of the game he's not able to do."

The telepathic relationship between Murray and Zebo was most evident in the shreddnig of Glasgow at Thomond Park in The Champions Cup.

There was, of course, that no-look pass from Murray and gleeful acceptance of the gift by Zebo for a try born out of time spent together getting to know each other.

Perhaps, there have been plans hatched by Joe Schmidt to exploit weaknesses in the Scottish defence.

Good

"Oh yeah, I can't be telling you that. Scotland would know all about that. We have a good relationship on the pitch.

"He knows what I'm thinking and I know what he's thinking, so he just tries to get me the ball as much as possible. In fairness, he's a good passer and is able to spread it out.

"If we're both lucky to be out on the pitch hopefully we can combine well."

Unsurprisingly, the outgoing Zebo will have a friend in blue on Saturday.

It just happens to be the one man Ireland will have to manage most carefully when it comes to keeping the Scots in check.

Stuart Hogg has been lighting up Europe this season at the sharp end of Glasgow's attack and currently leads the unofficial polls to be the British & Irish Lions test full-back.

"He's a very good player and he is a good friend of mine as well," said the Munster back-three man.

There is clearly an appreciation for the Scottish flyer, who plays the game in a similar carefree fashion.

"He's got a lot of pace and he's able to do magical things on the pitch.

"He's a class operator and I love the way he plays.

"He is very exciting and he plays with no fear.

"We'll be doing well to nullify him."

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