Friday 15 December 2017

Murray: I'm no Phillips clone

Munster scrum-half hails Welsh rival but insists he's his own man ahead of reunion at the Aviva

CONOR MURRAY hasn't time to consider the 'mini Mike Phillips' comparisons. They look alike. They play alike. But, one is at the earning summit of his profession; the other has taken the first step on his journey.

"The last contract I signed was my first professional one," said Murray, at the Irish press briefing out in Carton House yesterday.

Phillips flew The Ospreys nest to take financial advantage of the salary cap-less French Top-14 league at Bayonne as surely as he outfoxed the Irish defence for that gut-wrenching try in the World Cup quarter-final.

Murray decided to put pen to paper on his first full-time professional contract before the start of this season.

His rise through the ranks has been meteoric.

The Patrickswell 22-year-old made his Munster debut against Connacht in April 2010, his Heineken Cup debut against Brive last April and his Ireland opener against France in the World Cup warm-up in August.

This has also been detrimental to those around him. Peter Stringer was forced into looking to English champions Saracens for game-time, while Tomas O'Leary has been linked with French clubs Perpignan and Stade Francais.

Murray has been made aware of the 'compare and contrast' talk about Phillips and himself.

He is way too wily to engage in anything controversial, only respect for his elders.

"I've heard that once or twice before. He is a great player. He is playing well in his league in the Top-14. Obviously, I have looked at a few videos of him. He is a Lion," said Murray.

"I have taken a few things out of his game. But I will be looking to play my own game, bring my own attributes and my own strengths to the game. I won't really worry about him too much. I have respect for him but I wouldn't try to clone myself from him."

Even so, Murray has clearly been well-schooled in the Munster way. He defuses the verbal bombs thrown in his direction with all the calmness of a summer breeze.

Wales are more than just their scrum-half. Murray knows this.

He has enough to be getting on with in preparing for his first Six Nations start.

"It is a daunting prospect," he said. "I think the games from the summer and in the World Cup might help me confidence-wise. I am playing with Munster in the Heineken Cup and we are doing quite well there. Hopefully, I will take it in my stride."

There are those that yearn for the day when Wellington was something John Hayes, Sean O'Brien or Rory Best put on before they went out on the farm rather than an unwanted footnote at the end of the World Cup.

"There is a lot of talk about revenge. It is a new competition, a new start, a new game plan. Obviously, it is going to be in the back of some people's minds. Some use it as a motivating factor, but, for me, you can't really dwell on the past too much.

"You would be lying if you said you didn't think about it and you weren't hurting about what happened in Wellington. Wales were the better team on the day. We were bitterly disappointed.

"You can't focus on it too much. You have a lot more to worry about. The way we have approached this game is different from Wellington.

"We've highlighted a few areas that didn't go so well for us down there. We've tweaked a few things in our game plan," he concluded.

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