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Monday 11 December 2017

Ruaidhrí Murphy future in balance

Former Irish U-20 star ready to become a Wallaby but won't rule out return in green

WHILE Ireland recover from the annihilation handed down to them by the All Blacks and Australia dust themselves off from their clean sweep of Wales, former Leinster academy player Ruaidhrí Murphy is considering his international rugby prospects.

The Brumbies prop admits that he's open to playing for the Wallabies should the opportunity arise, but he faces a battle to prove his eligibility to do so, in the short term at least.

The 24-year-old has made a big impact on the Super Rugby competition since his arrival in Australia from English club Exeter, featuring in every game for the Australian conference leaders this season.

Murphy was named in the Sydney Morning Herald's team of the week after an eight-point win over the Melbourne Rebels at the beginning of the month. However, the former Irish schools and underage player is still on the Brumbies foreign player list as the club fights to prove his eligibility for the Australian team.

Murphy was born in Ireland but moved to Australia when he was a year old and spent the next 13 years in Perth.

The family returned to Ireland when Ruaidhrí was 14, but his dad Greg has continued to commute between Ireland and Australia to work in mining.

The Murphys still have a family home in Australia and operate their business from there.

However, to be eligible to play for a nation you must have been born there (or your parents or grandparents) or living in the country for 36 months.

IRB laws do not recognise Murphy's previous 13 years in Australia, much to his and his club's frustration. The former Castleknock college student is an Australian citizen.

"Unfortunately, that's still going on. It's kind of left us a bit bemused because my situation is so black and white that I'm obviously, despite my accent, Australian," Murphy says.

"I'm here as an Australian. I don't have a visa check. I walked through the airport as an Aussie with my passport but they won't grant it to me ... either way, at 36 months, and I'm contracted to that point anyway (at the Brumbies). Unless Ireland come looking for me and cap me, I'll be eligible for the Wallabies.

"I'll let my rugby do the talking for now and when that time comes, if I'm good enough in May 2014, the decision can be made."

Murphy says that his return to Australia felt like a homecoming but if Ireland did "come looking", as he says, it would be an offer that would be difficult to turn down.

"Australia was like the little voice in the back of my head the whole time. If you ever speak to my dad, he'll tell you that I always had a longing to come back. Australia was always probably home for me.

"Also, because we had citizenship and passports here, it meant that we were always going to have that golden ticket to come back, visa free, as an Aussie, which is how this whole opportunity opened up initially.

"I never forgot about Australia. Although I really enjoyed it at Exeter -- and had the right opportunity arose to stay there I would have done that, I was getting big game, big occasion experience but just not enough of it.

"Playing for Ireland underage was fantastic and I was so proud to pull on the green jersey and be part of a successful underage side. And I'm not saying that I wouldn't pull on a senior jersey.

"If that opportunity arose I'd have to seriously consider it. My mam would kill me if I ever turned it down. At the same time, this is home to me now.

"But if the day came where I had a decision to make that would be fantastic because I'd have done everything I wanted to do."

Settled

Murphy's mum, Lisa, in the prop's words "wouldn't move back to Australia for anything" and is well settled back home after 11 years.

However, he often has other family members for company with his dad spending around two months at a time down under for work and his sister Niamh, who has just completed an architecture degree, considering pursuing a Masters in Australia.

Ruaidhrí's younger brother Rian, who was just seven years old when the family returned to Ireland, is the most patriotic Irish member of the siblings, according to Murphy, who says he could have a big rugby future ahead of him too.

"He's probably a better player than I was at that age. The pedigree is in him to do whatever he wants. He's naturally built to be a prop. He's a massive 17-year-old with a lot of potential. If he wants it he can go and get it."

With Rian progressing through the rugby system nicely at Blackrock College, how would the family cope if the brothers ended up representing Ireland and Australia against one another?

"That would be my mum's worst nightmare, she wouldn't know what to do, but we'd love it. She'd be proud but she'd be torn."

Regardless of whether international duties are part of his future, there's no doubting Murphy's ambition.

"In some ways, I think I'm finally getting what I've been working towards.

"After six years in a professional rugby environment, I feel like I've paid my dues to get to where I am.

"In some ways I'm getting that reward but obviously I realise how lucky I am.

"I'm sitting behind Benny Alexander, who is probably the premier loosehead in the whole of Australian rugby at the moment, and then there's Dan Palmer, whose just been drafted into the Wallabies squad. To sit behind two Wallabies props is fine by me at the moment while I keep learning. But next year I'd like to progress to starting maybe half the games."

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