Wednesday 13 December 2017

Murray is all set to right wrongs

Scrum-half backs Schmidt's style of play for defence of Six Nations

Ireland scrumhalf Conor Murray in action for Munster Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland scrumhalf Conor Murray in action for Munster Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland’s Sean Cronin (centre), Rob Kearney (left) and Simon Zebo at an Ireland open training session at the Aviva Stadium yesterday Photo: Sportsfile

Conor Murray is one of the elite ones. The much wanted Ireland scrum-half was a likely target of the big spending English and French clubs that circle over Irish rugby like vultures in need of a gut-ful of game-breakers and game-shapers.

He would have been one of the first on the Irish Rugby Football Union's list of priority signings.

"You say you don't think about it but it's a weight off the shoulders," reviewed Murray, on yesterday's news of his three-year contract extension.

"It would have been a little bit inconvenient if it was hanging over your head and in your mind during the Six Nations.

"It's quite weird, it's only a week now to the Wales game.

"When we came into camp it seemed like a quick turnaround into international rugby, so yeah, delighted to have it locked away now, not think about it and focus on what you're here to do."

However, Murray was willing to dwell on his reasons for staying.

"I made it clear at the start I wanted to stay here," he said.

"It was a really good process the way we did it, dealing with the union and my agent, and my family, everyone who was involved.

"I didn't want to look abroad, but I'm sure if I did there'd have been a possibility of going there."

Sometimes the heaven you do know is better than the hell you don't.

Higher wages can come at a cost.

"I think we're well looked after here, and then off the pitch the set up we have, if we're talking internationally, it's brilliant, especially with an IRFU contract," imparted Murray.

"Your game time is managed really well and the provinces respect that and get on with it.

"Your body is looked after really well," he continued.

It wouldn't all feel quite the same had Ireland not put back-to-back Six Nations together in 2014 and 2015.

"I love the system I love the set up. Ireland has been brilliant over the last couple of seasons and I want to continue to be part of that."

The Limerick man is one of those marketable types, well open to making above and beyond his contract quid.

"It's a prosperous environment to play in Ireland as well. It's a great place to be with plenty going on for yourself, if you want it.

"I know there's huge money abroad, but I'm certainly happy with what I got here. I feel fairly treated."

This is where someone like Simon Zebo might feel differently to his great mate Murray in that he is not quite as integral to Ireland's plan as Murray.

That can hurt the difference of opinion on the valuation held by Performance Director David Nucifora and the player with which he is dealing.

"We talk as players and we have a good idea what we're valued at, so that's a benefit for us as players.

"If you're well managed you might get a few more years at the tail end of your career, you never know.

"That's something you can hope for and I hope it works out like that."

Now that the unseemly business of the business end of the game has been tucked away, the Six Nations looms.

Murray does not foresee much divergence from Ireland's misunderstood style.

"I think we have a really good system," he pushed.

"We did get a little bit of stick after the World Cup, but if you look at the stats, we're not a conservative team at all.

"In terms of holding ball in hand and passes completed we were right up there during the World Cup.

"So I think it's a false kind of view of our team.

"I think we're fully confident in how we can play, and how we can score tries and create chances."

It will be interesting to see how Ireland cope with life after Paul O'Connell. "Yeah it's a little bit different now with Paulie's voice missing, but Bestie was one of those voices for as long as I've been involved with Ireland," he insists.

"He's just taken a bit more of a step-up vocally and is leading the team but anyway there's the likes of Jamie (Heaslip), Johnny (Sexton), Seanie (O'Brien), those lads are still there and we've all done it together before and we have a good understanding of each other.

"Obviously with Paulie missing it's a big part of our chain that's missing but that's the challenge.

"You can't say it's perfect now, we're going to find out in the next few weeks whether we've done well getting on without him.

"I'm fully confident that we can but the proof will be in the pudding."

When the pressure comes on, who will stand up?

It is almost time to find out.

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