IT TAKES A certain degree of self-assuredness to stand in front of a media possé after two defeats on the bounce and declare that your team has just has ‘a blip’.
Such is Conor Murray’s take on Ireland’s current woes but let us give him a moment to explain the thought process.
He told TheScore.ie “If we weren’t creating opportunities and putting ourselves in points scoring situations – try scoring or kicking penalties – we’d be a lot more worried.
“The statistics are frightening. They are there for everyone to see what we did in Scotland and the pressure we had them under… the stats don’t lie, we had them there for the taking.”
The Munster scrumhalf added, “I wouldn’t put the England game [Ireland lost 12-6] in the same category as the Scotland game. Hats off to England, they were better than us on the day.”
Murray’s logic may be hard to take at present but Ireland, he says, are desperate to get back to winning ways against the French on Saturday.
Getting the fans onboard
Murray acknowledges that one of the most important aspects of giving France [three defeats from three games] a white-hot reception at Lansdowne Road will be the home support.
Given the near-hopeless Irish title chances and recent criticism of the supporters by Alan Quinlan in The Irish Times, the level of support at rugby headquarters can not be predicted with great confidence.
Murray said, “[The atmosphere] has to be performance-led by the players.
I don’t think we can expect to turn up and expect the fans to be roaring, screaming and creating an unbelievable atmosphere for us. We’ve got to give them something to chew on and start the game really well.”
He added, “Within the first 40 minutes you’ve got to be in the game and it is up to us to give the fans something to scream for.”
Just as the 23-year-old was building a solid Ireland partnership with Jonathan Sexton, a hamstring tweak for the Leinster man has shaken up the halfback pairing.
The Murray and Paddy Jackson combination may be in place at the World Cup in 2015 but their first international match together, the 12-8 Scottish loss, is not something they will look back on with a huge degree of fondness.
Murray and Jackson make room for Rob Kearney. (©INPHO/Billy Stickland)
Murray points out Jackson’s deft hands in the backline that set Luke Marshall free in Murrayfield and a turnover against Matt Scott but concedes he missed ‘a couple of tough kicks’.
He said, “That’s no excuse when you’re at international level. You have to be nailing them but he can take a lot of confidence from the game, other than that.”
Following successive defeats, the Limerick native reveals that a couple of players had sit-down chats with performance psychologist Enda McNulty.
He added, “The lads know themselves that they’ve got a big game coming up against France and we can’t let this Six Nations slip away and make the public slip away from us.
“We have to show the public that there’s a bit of talent in this team. That’s what we intend to do.”