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Murphy: We can't take our foot off the gas

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25 February 2013; Leinster's Jordi Murphy during squad training ahead of their Celtic League 2012/13 game against Newport Gwent Dragons on Friday. Leinster Rugby Squad Training and Media Briefing, UCD, Belfield, Dublin. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

25 February 2013; Leinster's Jordi Murphy during squad training ahead of their Celtic League 2012/13 game against Newport Gwent Dragons on Friday. Leinster Rugby Squad Training and Media Briefing, UCD, Belfield, Dublin. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

25 February 2013; Leinster's Jordi Murphy during squad training ahead of their Celtic League 2012/13 game against Newport Gwent Dragons on Friday. Leinster Rugby Squad Training and Media Briefing, UCD, Belfield, Dublin. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

THE legend of St George has passed through the ages and across European nations and largely involves the story of a patron saint saving a princess by slaying a dragon.

In Spain, St George's Day is celebrated on April 23, and tradition there sees lovers exchange gifts of books and roses.

Had you asked Leinster's Jordi (to give George its full Spanish translation) Murphy what his goals were at the start of the season, he tells you that it would have been to add to his caps tally and become a regular in the squad.

With 14 appearances under his belt to date this season, he has certainly achieved that milestone. But having tasted the big time, he is hungry for more.

In recent weeks, alongside fellow Academy back-row graduates including the likes of Rhys Ruddock and Dominic Ryan, the former Blackrock College man has found a rich vein of form.

He is content, but not delighted. For he knows that this is just the beginning and that there have been mistakes along the way. And, unlike the patron saint, life isn't all gifts and roses just yet.

"The back row is a fiercely competitive unit," he reminds you on the eve of tonight's trip to Rodney Parade. "And that's great because it's keeping us all on our toes. Each of us knows that when you have your hands on a shirt you have to work hard to retain it.

"And that's not just in games. It's drilled into us by the coaching staff that you can't let up for one minute in your preparation. It's not as if you have one good performance and you think to yourself, '...that's it, I'm safe for selection this weekend'. Not at all. We have to keep the intensity up every minute of every session.

"So while we have been getting some pretty good performances of late, you know that there's a serious amount of talent set to come back into the squad after the Six Nations.

"The marker has been laid down to us to work hard and we know that if we do our effort will be rewarded. That's the challenge for those of us on the fringes."

The province's preparations were compromised by Ireland's growing injury list. But opportunity knocked and the former Blackrock College Senior Cup-winning captain was invited to train with the international panel in Carton House.

It was, he said, an enjoyable but demanding learning curve. "It wasn't the first time that I've been called in to train with the Ireland squad, but it was an enjoyable experience. Really high intensity training sessions, but I'm used to that with Leinster."

This evening's trip to Newport marks the final leg of a four-part block of matches. To date, the province have recorded an impressive 14 from 15 available points, but as the Barcelona-born forward points out, there's still a huge mountain to climb.

"We knew a few months back that we were going to be without a number of senior players at this time of year, so I had targeted trying to get into the side and getting some game time under my belt. Thankfully I have managed to do that.

"But while the team has been going well, really since Christmas, we still have 25 per cent of this block (of matches) to close out. So we're not patting ourselves on the back just yet because each of us knows that the job isn't done.

"It's great to be playing in a winning team against good opposition. Last week, for example, we knew that we were going to be facing a pack who would try to bully and intimidate us. But we stood up and really brought the game to them from the off.

"We knew that we had to play harder, come off the line faster and counter their threats against what was virtually The Scarlets' first-choice pack."

To compound the challenge this weekend, though, there's the not so insignificant matter of a wounded Dragon to guard against.

"Absolutely," he warns, "because we know how difficult a side they are to play, especially on their home soil. It was a bit of a freak result when they lost heavily to Glasgow last time out in Rodney Parade a fortnight ago, but they regrouped last weekend and ground out a good win over in Zebre. That shows that they're a good side.

"So they'll still certainly be playing with a point to prove in front of their home support. From our end we're on a decent run and we don't want to take our foot off the pedal.

"I played two minutes of last season's game in Newport and we ground out a narrow win (22-18), but we know that it will be another huge task. It's important we keep ourselves in a strong position with the internationals away so that when they get back we can really launch into the last few months of the season."

And as well as the final months of the season, Murphy is also looking forward to starting a new two-year deal which was recently completed.

"I was delighted to sign the deal with Leinster. Obviously I had to decide what was best for me and my own development, but I love Leinster. It's where I'm from. And I feel that I can learn a lot under Joe (Schmidt) and Jono (Gibbes) for the foreseeable future."

Onwards and upwards it seems for Murphy as the action heats up.


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