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Murphy Aiming To Make Most Out Of ‘Pretty Special’ Ireland U-20 Opportunity

Murphy Aiming To Make Most Out Of ‘Pretty Special’ Ireland U-20 Opportunity

Bray youngster Jack Murphy is set to follow in his older brother Ben's footsteps and make his Ireland Under-20 debut this weekend ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

As rugby-mad households go, the Bray-based Murphys are right up there. Their youngest son, Jack, is the next one from the family to get involved with the Ireland Under-20 Men (sponsored by PwC).

His father Richie has been the Ireland U-20 Men’s head coach since 2021, guiding some of Irish Rugby’s brightest young talents to back-to-back Under-20 Six Nations Grand Slams, and a runners-up finish at last summer’s World Rugby U-20 Championship.

Richie’s eldest son, scrum half Ben, played three times for Ireland during the 2020 U-20 Six Nations campaign, and is currently in his third year with the Leinster Academy. He made his Champions Cup debut most recently against Sale Sharks.

Like his brother, dad, grandad, and granduncles before him, 19-year-old out-half Jack was educated at Presentation College in Bray where he spent many Saturdays perfecting his kicking, before playing Leinster Schools Junior and Senior Cup rugby for five years.

Murphy, who kicked Pres Bray to a Leinster Junior League Division 1A title in 2019, has been highly rated through the age grades, representing both Leinster and Ireland. Playing U-20 rugby for his country has been a clear goal for some time.

Speaking at the recent Ireland U-20 Six Nations squad announcement at PwC’s Dublin offices, he said: “I think it’s the pinnacle of anyone’s career, who is from Ireland, to play for their country.

“Like, seeing the last few years at Under-20 level, and the last few years for the senior team as well, it shows you what the country thinks of it. It can uplift the country.

“To play for Ireland is the biggest honour that you can have in your career, definitely for me. Especially the U-20s, I’ve always dreamed of playing U-20s, I’ve always looked at this as the year I have to get ready for. To be here now is pretty special.”

One of his biggest strengths is his ability with his feet. His range of kicking has always been his point of difference throughout the years. He was a talented footballer, playing with Cabinteely FC until the age of 15. In another life, he might have pursued a career in the Premier League.

However, it was the oval ball that was always going to prevail when the choice had to be made between rugby and football.

“As a kid I loved both sports,” admitted the former Seapoint RFC mini rugby player. “I used to say if I couldn’t play for Leinster, I’d go and play for Man United, but you realise that’s not possible.

“It was always rugby for me. When I was born, the first thing I had in my hands was a rugby ball – it was about the size of me! I think it was always going to be rugby for me.”

The Bray native continued the family tradition by joining Clontarf this season to play in the Energia All-Ireland League, following in the footsteps of his dad and older brother.

His Division 1A debut for the club against reigning champions Terenure College in October was a special moment. Getting the chance to play alongside Ben at half-back that day made it even sweeter.

That was definitely a special day for the family. I came on for my AIL debut against Terenure. Ben was playing 9 for a few minutes, and the week after we both started against UCD, alongside each other at 9 and 10.

“That was a special day for the family. It’s pretty cool to play with such a good player at AIL level inside you at scrum half.

“I think that was a really good day for me and hopefully we get a few more opportunities to play with each other in the future.”

Ben, who turns 23 in April, has made nine senior appearances for Leinster so far. Six of them have come this season, including his first start against the Dragons in the United Rugby Championship, and his Champions Cup bow off the bench against Sale before Christmas.

His success in the blue jersey provides great motivation for his teenage sibling. Jack commended his brother’s performances by saying: “I was delighted for him to get a run. It’s really cool to see, it’s not every day you see your brother playing professional rugby for Leinster.

“He has definitely helped me, grown me as a player, I’ve learned a lot off him. It was great to see him get a few run-outs for Leinster this year”

It is a busy and exciting few months ahead for this mostly new Ireland Under-20 group. They start their U-20 Six Nations run this Saturday against France at Stade Maurice David in Aix-en-Province (kick-off 9.10pm local time/8.10pm Irish time).

Murphy and his fellow U-20 debutants will undoubtedly learn new things each week as they progress through the tournament. He believes the support and wisdom of the five returning players – captain Evan O’Connell, Joe Hopes, Hugh Gavin, Danny Sheahan, and Brian Gleeson – will help them to settle in.

“I suppose it’s hard to find wise heads at U-20 level because we’re so young, but those lads (coming back from last season) are probably real definitions of that.

“They’ve kind of passed on their experiences already to us and I’m sure there is going to be a lot more that they’ll be able to help us out with come Six Nations time,” he added.

Tickets for the Ireland U-20s’ home matches at Virgin Media Park in Cork are available to purchase now via Ticketmaster.ie. They have three Friday Night Lights clashes with Italy (February 9), Wales (February 23), and Scotland in the final round on March 15.