Friday’s historic encounter with New Zealand Maori is an uncapped affair, but full-back Geordan Murphy will still be bursting with pride when he captains Ireland for the first time in his long and decorated career.
As well as having 67 Ireland caps and two Lions Test appearances to his name, Geordan Murphy has plenty of captaincy experience with Leicester Tigers to call on as he prepares to lead Ireland into battle against New Zealand Maori.
Skippering an Irish team that has a real mix of youth and experience, Murphy is looking forward to what should be a memorable day for both sides.
“It’s a huge honour (to be captain), a massive one. It’s one I didn’t expect but I can’t imagine anything that would compare,” he said.
“Obviously playing for Ireland is fantastic and leading them out will be amazing.
“It’s a very special occasion on the weekend. We’re fully aware of the Maori heritage and it’s obviously 100 years since the team got together and they’re a fantastic side.
“When I was a young player I would always watch the Maoris play and admire the way they throw the ball around.”
Murphy finished his club season with Leicester by lifting the Guinness Premiership title and he made his presence felt as a second half replacement in last weekend’s loss to the All Blacks.
There has been a complete overhaul for Friday’s game against the Maori – a total of 15 changes to the starting line-up, with the uncapped quartet of Johne Murphy, Ed O’Donoghue, Rhys Ruddock and Chris Henry all hoping to impress the management.
They will be backed up by undoubtedly the most experienced replacements bench in Irish rugby history. Centurion John Hayes head a seven-man bench which totals an incredible 444 Test caps.
Murphy will have his Leicester team-mate and fellow Kildare man Johne Murphy for company in the back-three, and the pair are among a host of players gunning for a squad place in next week’s tour finale against Australia.
“There’s a few opportunities for guys who haven’t had a run or maybe don’t have as many caps as others. You know everyone starts somewhere,” added the Naas native, who spent a year in New Zealand as a 17-year-old, taking part in an exchange programme between Newbridge College and Auckland Grammar School.
“Everyone needs those opportunities to put in a good performance and at the end of the day we’re pulling on Ireland jerseys. You need no more incentive.
“Everyone will be up for it. We’ve touched on how passionate the Maori guys will be. It’s up to us to bring a little bit of Irishness to it as well.”
Murphy is no stranger to facing down the Haka – he has done so on eight occasions, seven with Ireland and once with the Lions in 2005.
He is an obvious admirer of the pre-match tradition and even performed one during his time in Auckland as a youngster.
“I have actually (done one before). When we were in school here and we were a little bit younger, they teach the kids a Haka and you have Haka practice and bits and pieces. So yeah I have been on the other side of it before,” he quipped.
“And I’ve faced it a few times. I’ve had the honour of playing with some quality All Blacks and I’ve seen it first hand and it’s a magnificent thing. I think we’ll face it the same way Irish teams have always faced it.
“We’ll line up on the halfway line and we’ll respect it and enjoy it. It’s a great rugby tradition. Some people get too hung up on it but it’s a great rugby spectacle and the fans enjoy it.”
Indeed, Murphy will hopefully enjoy the final result a bit more than New Zealand Maori side’s assistant coach Daryl Gibson, whom he played with at Leicester between 2003 and 2007.