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Monday 10 December 2018

Irish rugby's kicking king

Murphy's tactics are team's secret weapon

Richie Murphy (left) and Joe Schmidt during Ireland training at Carton House yesterday
Richie Murphy (left) and Joe Schmidt during Ireland training at Carton House yesterday
Jacob Stockdale chips ahead for Ireland’s try against New Zealand

Joe Schmidt doesn't suffer fools gladly, or otherwise.

More than that, the Ireland coach doesn't throw away anything or anyone that can make his job easier and his players better.

When the little-known New Zealander arrived at Leinster in 2010, on the back of a recommendation from Isa Nacewa, no one could have foreseen the impact he would have on Irish rugby.

"Joe hasn't been the head coach of a national team before," said then Leinster skills and kicking coach Richie Murphy, with his Leinster hat on back in April 2013.

"I'm sure he will find some of that stuff difficult.

"There is no better man to go in there, find his feet and take the team forward."

Two months later, former Leinster out-half Murphy moved to reunite with Schmidt.

In fact, Murphy and Greg Feek have been the two constant coaches in Schmidt's career in Ireland from 2010.

Learning

That is eight seasons of living with and learning from the man who has progressed to be the best coach in the world.

Last Saturday, Ireland wing Jacob Stockdale way out of his way to shower praise on Ireland's kicking guru.

"He (Murphy) is always talking about how much of a difference those chips and those grubbers down the line can make, especially if you keep them between the 15 (metre line) and the touchline.

"He's been super, in terms of making my kicking skills better. Yeah, he's been fantastic," he said.

Stockdale chose to share his glory with the man who had shared his time to sharpen his kicking skills.

Why wouldn't the Ulsterman? That delicate chip kick has been the main reason for two of the most famous tries by an Irishman in the history of the game.

The chip over Mike Brown in Twickenham on St Patrick's Day was followed by the chip over Brodie Retallick at the Aviva Stadium.

"I suppose for Jacob, it's not the first time he's done that, you know what I mean?" reflected Murphy in Carton House yesterday.

"Obviously against England, it was a very similar picture. But we want our players to have a skill set that they can pick the right skill at the right time.

"There's a decision-making process to that,

"There's also a skill level that they have to be comfortable with. So, all of our back three would do a lot of work on their kicking on the run."

The Crusaders have embraced Ronan O'Gara as someone from the northern hemisphere who could make a difference to their storied franchise.

Apparently, the glowing remarks from those in the All Blacks set-up last week suggested O'Gara has done just that.

More importantly, the All Blacks made a point of nominating Ireland's kicking game as a strength that had to be neutralised.

It so happens Murphy is the man responsible for that particular skill, not just at Ireland, but also on his trips around the Irish provinces.

This does not just include observation and assistance with goal-kicking.

It also takes in the various type of kicks, such as Stockdale's and how Ireland can improve them, like the way Garry Ringrose slid that gorgeous grubber through to eke a five-metre lineout out of Beauden Barrett deep into the final quarter.

"There's different options in that, whether being able to kick long, chip kick or grubber kick down the sideline, like Garry's kick into the corner for instance created a five metre line-out," explained Murphy.

"Unfortunately, we didn't capitalize off that, but the right decision at the right time and execute the skill really well, that's what we're trying to do."

Schmidt will reveal his decision shortly about his intentions after next year's Rugby World Cup.

It would be presumptuous to try and second guess a man who keeps his cards gripped tight to his chest.

Nonetheless, the subtleties of his language around staying or leaving suggest Schmidt will exit Ireland.

Should that come to pass, he will leave with the wind of the nation's best wishes at his back.

Thereafter, the argument has been over whether or not Schmidt would move straight in to takeover from Steve Hansen at the All Blacks.

If that comes to pass, he will want every advantage he can muster.

It might be a sound kick-start to request the services of the man who knows him best.

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