Ireland scrum half Conor Murray says that consistency is the key word around Irish camp as Sunday’s opening RBS 6 Nations match against Scotland draws nearer.
Ireland showed glimpses of brilliance during their agonising late defeat to the All Blacks in November which was in contrast with their previous one home victory in four games.
That lack of consistency is what Conor Murray and his team-mates hope to put right in Joe Schmidt’s first RBS 6 Nations campaign as head coach.
“That consistency element is definitely a topic of discussion in our camp for a long time now. With Joe (Schmidt) there now we are trying to figure that out and fix it,” said Murray.
“That was a great performance (against New Zealand), we came agonisingly close. We don’t want to dwell on it too much but at the same time we’ve got to look back at it and take the positives that we can take out of it.
“A lot of rugby has been played since then but the last time we were together that is how we played. We want to build on that and improve in certain areas.
“We looked at that New Zealand game more than once and picked our areas where we could have done better, we could have closed out the game better, had a better breakdown at times.
“There are definitely areas of that game where we can improve and hopefully take forward into this Six Nations.”
Murray comes into the 2014 Championship with more of an insight into the Scottish players having been on the Lions tour last summer with Scotland internationals Ryan Grant, Richie Gray, Sean Maitland and Stuart Hogg.
The Limerick man also believes his opposite number this Sunday, Scotland’s influential scrum half Greig Laidlaw, will play a vital role for the visitors.
Having seen Hogg and Maitland up close in Australia, he knows they have the capability of causing Ireland problems.
“Laidlaw is a real focal point of their team. He drives a lot of their plays. I obviously played against him quite a bit against Edinburgh and a handful of times against Scotland.
“We would like to think we know him quite well but that doesn’t take away how much of a threat he will be, so we will have to keep our eyes on him.
“He (Hogg) does certainly have a little bit of an X-factor, particular on the counter attack. He’s not afraid to run it back, he’s a real evasive type of player.
“It’s the same with Maitland. They are two really quick players that aren’t afraid to have a go. If we kick loosely or give away possession they are not just going to put it up the jumper and kick it back. They will look to have a go.”
With Eoin Reddan looking increasingly likely to miss out on the opener after injurying his calf, Murray is not taking it for granted that he will start.
Isaac Boss has been drafted in as cover, but Murray also feels that Connacht youngster Kieran Marmion is in with a chance of breaking through sooner rather than later.
“I still see the game the exact same. (Isaac) Bossy is there and Kieran Marmion is knocking around as well. I am just trying to focus on my own game and make sure I am as sharp as I can possibly be and fingers crossed you get the nod at the end of the day,” insisted the 24-year-old.
“There are three or four players vying for each position so I’m just trying to look after my own corner and make sure I can give everything I can.
“There’s huge competition within the squad at the moment. Even training today, no one is giving an inch. That is the way you want it.
“Everyone is going at it hammer and tongs in training and the competition is huge. It will only drive on the squad.”
Last year’s 12-8 defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield showed how Scotland can dig in their heels and turn a likely defeat into victory.
Their forwards made the hard yards that day while goal-kicking number 9 Laidlaw kept the scoreboard ticking over, and Murray believes the pace available behind the scrum has added a new threat to Scotland’s attack.
“They have added a new dimension to their game from being on tour with Stuart (Hogg) and Sean (Maitland). You got to see them up cose, they are really threatening runners. That gives two dimensions to the Scottish team.
“They’ve got a great pack, they’re great at the breakdown and when they want to go wide, they are really dangerous particularly on the counter attack with the likes of Hogg and Sean Maitland, (Tim) Visser and a number of other back-three players they have at their disposal, they are quite dangerous.
“You saw Scotland during November when they pushed a lot of southern Hemisphere teams close. Having played against them last year with the defeat, they are a team that can hang in there.
“If you get your chances you’ve got to take them. If you don’t convert your chances they will hang in there and they will be there until the end,” he added.