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Murray: Ulster Always Harder To Break Down In Belfast

Murray: Ulster Always Harder To Break Down In Belfast

Having played alongside a number of the Ulster fontliners in Ireland’s recent RBS 6 Nations triumph, and having played in the 19-17 home loss to the northern side at the end of last season, few are more aware than Conor Murray of the immense test that awaits the Munstermen at Kingspan Stadium on Saturday.

Speaking ahead of the trip to Belfast in the penultimate round of the GUINNESS PRO12, Conor Murray said: “We know from past results how tough it is up there. They are a side brimming with confidence and look like they are ready for the next level in play-off rugby at the end of the season.

“This is a great test for us, we’ve had two bonus point wins against sides that are lower down the table but we feel good about our game also and I’m really looking forward to the contest – it’s going to be really high quality, hopefully entertaining and hopefully one where we can come out on top.

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“We need to hit the ground running this weekend, especially against a team like Ulster – a very confident side who really know what they are doing when they go out and play, especially up in Belfast where they seem that bit more physical and harder to break down.

“It’s up to us to bring our high standards to the game and match them physically if we are to have a chance of getting the result.”

Saturday afternoon’s Sky Sports-televised showdown will once again see Murray face off against South African World Cup-winning scrum half Ruan Pienaar.

“The last time I played against him for Munster was the Heineken Cup quarter-final here (Thomond Park) a few years ago and I don’t think I’ve started a game up in Kingspan Stadium yet,” admitted the Limerick man.

“It’s always a great challenge to play against Ruan. I played against him for Ireland a couple of years ago and watching him up close he’s an impressive operator. It’s another big challenge and one that I’m looking forward to.”

Only once before have Munster managed to secure a home semi-final when they went on to win the competition in 2010/11. Like his team-mates and Munster supporters alike, Murray relishes the opportunity of one last big day out at Thomond Park this season.

“It’s nice to be training here in Thomond Park today but every time we walk out it seems like an age since we played here. I didn’t play in the last game here against Connacht so it’s been a while since I’ve played in Thomond and I think that’s in the back of our minds, especially with the home semi-final still up for grabs.

“We know there’s a long way to go yet with another game after this weekend and we know the Ulster game is too big a game to take our eye off the ball. It would be great to secure a home semi-final, hopefully sell it out and have one last big day here this season, especially as the ground is firming up and the sun is beginning to shine.”

With no European action for Munster or Ulster at the business end of the season, the calendar of matches has been relatively stop-start in nature with a number of game-free weekends. This according to Murray can work both for and against teams.

“Match fitness is key and that’s probably been the most frustrating thing about not being involved in Europe, having every second weekend off. However, gelling together as a squad and spending a bit more time together on the training field and getting used to each other after being away with Ireland for the eight weeks previous has been a benefit of not having games.

“I mentioned how lack of games can affect match fitness but we’ve been working hard with Aled Walters and all the S&C coaches in those weeks we’ve had off so we’re still as fit as we can be.”