Ireland scrum half Conor Murray has praised performance analysts Mervyn Murphy and Vinny Hammond for the level of detail they have provided the squad with in preparing for tomorrow’s Rugby World Cup Pool D opener against Canada.
Ireland’s Rugby World Cup campaign gets underway in Cardiff on Saturday and as well as the workload on the training pitch, it is clear that hours of screen-time have been put in with regards to analysing their first opponents.
Conor Murray explained: “The lads (Mervyn Murphy and Vinny Hammond) have done a great job analysing Canada and putting video clips together of the lads playing in Europe, who we know quite well now, especially the wingers DTH (van der Merwe) and Jeff Hassler, who are very potent finishers. If they do get space, they’ll exploit it.
“We’ve looked at the (number) nines as well. Phil Mack can come off the bench and really light up a game – we’ve seen clips of him doing that – and they have a huge physical presence in the pack with the likes of (Jamie) Cudmore, so we’ve fully focused on what we have to do against them to take advantage where we can.”
It is just four short years since Murray made his Ireland debut in a World Cup warm-up game against France, and the young scrum half went on to make four appearances (three starts) at the 2011 tournament in New Zealand.
Now 26 and with 37 caps behind him, he has gone from a relative unknown outside of Ireland to one of the leading number 9s in world rugby, armed with a Lions Test series win and back-to-back Six Nations successes.
There was concern that Murray might miss the Canada match after coming off with a head injury during the final warm-up fixture against England a fortnight ago. He collided with a trailing boot from Joe Marler and was replaced by Eoin Reddan on the quarter hour mark.
However, the Munster player has since successfully come through his return-to-play concussion protocols and trained fully with the Irish squad this week.
“I think I nicked just his calf. I tackled him (Marler) from behind and one of his legs clipped me. It was quite innocuous. I passed all my HIA tests on the sidelines. The replay showed I was still for three or four seconds so they said not to risk it. But I cleared all my return-to-play protocols and I feel great. I’ve trained fully all this week and parts of last week,” he admitted.
“There was a rumour that I had had three (concussions) in the last year, but one of those was a bang on the neck. I had a concussion test and there was no concussion in that at all.
“The doctors have taken all the correct measures, they go through all the protocols and make sure I’m fine after all these trainings. I feel great and ready to go.”
One of the main talking points from the Ireland team announcement yesterday was the inclusion of Luke Fitzgerald at inside centre, as he takes over from the sidelined Robbie Henshaw (tight hamstring).
Murray is confident that Fitzgerald will make his own mark on the Irish midfield, saying: “Luke can definitely add something different to our back-line. He’ll bring his own style of game to the table.
“He can slot into our formation seamlessly, so he’s a flair player, a very exciting player and I’m looking forward to playing with him. He’s played an awful lot with Johnny, and Lukey is a play-maker as well, so that will be another string to our bow come Saturday.”
The Limerick man is itching to get out onto the Millennium Stadium pitch tomorrow and play his part in what, he hopes, will be a winning start for Joe Schmidt’s men.
“There’s been a lot of excitement about the place building up to this game and the start of the tournament. Every player in the squad knows we’re here, we’ve got a job to do, and everyone is ready to get going and is excited – a little bit of nerves, too, but that’s good, it’s such a big event,” added Murray.