WITH 11 APPEARANCES for Ireland A or the Wolfhounds, Johne Murphy must be the country’s most capped nearly man.
The Munster winger has received many calls from Irish Rugby officials telling him of squad inclusions but never for the senior squad. A call from Ireland coach Joe Schmidt last month informed him he had not made the cut for the full or Wolfhounds squad. Still, at least he was in the New Zealander’s thoughts.
Murphy told TheScore.ie, “I suppose there was some small disappointment that I didn’t make the squad, I’d be lying to say I wasn’t thinking of it. I’ve been in good form so I was hopeful. I’m happy with where I am at the moment.
Joe called me and gave me his reasons for not including me in the Wolfhounds squad. He said there might be opportunities [for a call-up] later in the tournament but with Tommy Bowe coming back, I imagine he will go straight in. It’s up to myself to keep my form intact.”
Murphy should line out against Cardiff Blues at the weekend as the Pro12 clicks into gear again. Munster are currently top of the league and Murphy is eager to keep it that way. “The four games coming up are huge. We probably lost the league [and a semi-final place] in that block of games last year so it is up to the boys not with Ireland to push on.”
One of the turning points of Munster’s 2012/13 season was the recall of Murphy — a player highly regarded by his teammates — to the squad. He featured eight times for the province last season but has already surpassed that [13 games, two tries] during the current campaign. “We were very disappointed with how last season went. We gave it a go in the Heineken Cup but were poor in the league. Truth be told, that is not good enough for Munster,” he conceded.
The 28-year-old commented, “Myself and Rob [Penney] had a decent conversation at the end of last season and he very much put it up to me.” Murphy returned to pre-season earlier than ever and arrived in lean condition. He feels the hard slogs on the training ground, over the summer, has paid off. “Personally,” he said, “I am going well and the team is doing good but I believe I’m 15 to 20% away from where I want to be.
“We are still about 25 to 30% off where we should be, as a team. The Edinburgh game was probably where we should be when it comes to attack and the week before, in Gloucester, we were right up there defensively. We have to get attack and defence to those high levels if we are to have a chance.”
Murphy has played 73 times for Munster since signing from Leicester Tigers in 2010. INPHO/James Crombie
While teammates such as Peter O’Mahony and Paul O’Connell are away with Ireland, Murphy will be facing off against three Welsh sides and Zebre in the space of a month. If the province can remain as league leaders by late March they may allow themselves to think of the Heineken Cup and the visit of Toulouse.
Murphy said, “Even before the quarter finals were decided, our supporters were saying how much they want Toulouse. They are the two teams that, from the very start, made the competition what it is. We were satisfied to earn a home quarter final, especially after losing our first game. That has given us a good opportunity to advance but we have to kick on. Toulouse is the big one. That is the game everyone wants to play in.”
If Murphy can maintain his provincial form over the next two months he has every chance of lining out in the Munster starting XV to welcome the four-time Heineken Cup champions to Thomond Park.
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