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Murray Hoping To ‘Kick On’ Against France

Murray Hoping To ‘Kick On’ Against France

Ireland scrum half Conor Murray insists the team performance in Rome will not be good enough at home to France this coming Saturday. Joe Schmidt’s men needed second half tries from Murray and Tommy O’Donnell to fend off the Italian threat.

Handling errors saw Ireland cough up possession in the final third on a few occasions at the Stadio Olimpico in what proved to be a tough RBS 6 Nations opener. Conor Murray says the squad have highlighted a number of areas for improvement as they look to ‘kick on’ against les Bleus.

“(That’s the) most important thing – I was there (in Rome) two years ago when we lost, but we got the win this time,” admitted the scrum half, who now has 33 Ireland caps to his name.

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“France this weekend is a huge, huge challenge and we’ve got a few areas to improve so that’s our set-up for the week. We needed a big week at training and get little things right which we didn’t and then we can kick on.

“It’s a massive step up from the weekend. You saw the standard set between Wales and England. That’s the really high standard set for the Championship. The Italy game will not be good enough to beat France this weekend.

“We’ve got to step up in a couple of areas and really take on this week and train really well. Last weekend, while it was good enough to get the win in Italy, it won’t be good enough this weekend.”

Murray felt the 26-3 scoreline against the Italians did not reflect how tough a game it was in Rome. Ireland failed to get the upper hand until the second half with Murray dotting down after Sean Cronin brought them within inches of the try-line.

Before that, Italy’s line-speed stopped the Irish momentum for the majority of the opening hour and Murray likened the hard-fought victory to France’s tight 15-8 win over Scotland in Paris. 

“The French were in a tough game with the Scots and the Scots put them under pressure throughout the game, but they stuck to their guns, they kept playing they wanted to play and got the result like we did. I suppose (we learnt) that they can win ugly as well. They’ve got a lot of talent in that team.

“I know from playing against Clermont – against top quality players like (Wesley) Fofana and (Camille) Lopez that can change a game in a moment. They’ve got a lot of quality and can be really dangerous if you let them attack and leave them space. But looking at the weekend against Scotland, they won ugly and that’s a sign of a good team.”

Murray is set to renew his half-back partnership with Jonathan Sexton in round 2 following the Racing Metro 92 out-half’s return following concussion. Having seen a neurologist in Paris last Thursday, Sexton was given the all-clear.

The Limerick man added: “When I wasn’t doing contact a couple of weeks ago (due to a neck injury), I was doing a bit of fitness running with Johnny. We were going head to head and he looked really fit and was running really well.

“That won’t be an issue with him. He’s been training really hard, he’s just been staying away from contact, but he’s been doing his weights and fitness work, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

“Playing an actual game is a bit more difficult with the match fitness that the people talk about, but I was really looked after well by the strength & conditioning guys and the physios – they got me up to a level where I was happy to into a game and perform.

“Maybe it was a good hit-out that I needed. The lungs were working hard at times, but I felt good during the game. I felt I had done my rehab well and I was fit enough, so it’s going to be better for me moving forward this week.”

Murray insists every Test match they approach with a different game-plan in mind. Last year’s counter-attacking try against the French (scored by Sexton early in the second half) was an example of the ambition they can play with.

The defending champions have got a lot of strings to their bow, insists the Munster ace, and they will look at the various ways of attacking the French on Saturday evening. But it is only round 2 as both sides feel their way into the tournament.

“It’s after one game and there’s a few little areas where we were a small bit rusty on that we have to get right. We’ve been in camp for a number of weeks and over Christmas so we’re probably a bit frustrated the way things turned out in the end. But we won and we managed to get the job done.

“France are probably the same. I imagine they’re in camp this week with the exact same mindset, trying to fix a few areas and turn out a really good performance which is what’s in our heads.”

The Rome encounter saw Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne start only their second game together in the centre and Murray feels the Athlone youngster has shown the confidence you would expect from a more experienced player.

“Robbie has spent a lot of time with Brian O’Driscoll over the last couple of seasons. He’s been in his ear, mentoring him. Robbie has got so much ability and he’s a great person on and off the pitch. He’s been learning off the senior lads around him for the last couple of years..

“He’s got that natural temperament anyway. The lads helping him is only going to benefit him a little bit more. He’s been doing really well for us. When he gets on the pitch he does look like he’s been around for years and years and that shows what a good player he is,” he said of the Six Nations newcomer.