FOR ALL ITS merits, Wikipedia has oft been the downfall of the table quiz organisers or rapid-fire journalists.
Hence, when Jordi Murphy’s page declared that the Barcelona-born flanker received a Blackrock College award off Brian O’Driscoll in 2009, TheScore.ie felt it would be best to check with the recipient.
“That’s true,” he confirmed. “I got sports personality of the year. It’s an award they give out to final year students. Brian came in to me on the day and awarded it to me. It was great.” With O’Driscoll opting to stay on at Leinster for a further year, Murphy will have another season alongside the rugby great.
Murphy added, “I was thinking about that award the other day; thinking about watching some of the other lads play when I was a student and never thinking I would be in this position. Next thing, they are standing beside me in a defensive line or an attacking line.”
After six appearances [five off the bench] in 2011/12, Murphy was called upon 17 times by Joe Schmidt last season. He scored tries against Cardiff, Scarlets and Cardiff again, claimed man-of-the-match awards and made Heineken Cup appearances as a replacement against Clermont and Scarlets. Murphy’s highlight of the season, however, came with confirmation that he had been made a fully-fledged senior squad member.
“You can’t really get a contract unless you start playing and getting good game time,” he told TheScore.ie. “That was priority. I wanted to break into the senior side and I managed to do that around November. I thought that if I worked hard for another year I would, hopefully, get bumped up but I got bumped up early.
I got a couple of breaks with people being injured but I took my opportunity. It was a good year but I really want to build on that now. I’ve parked that and now I’m moving on.”
Murphy has earned praise from Leinster teammates Jamie Heaslip and Shane Jennings in recent months and feels he must back up their positive comments with on-field performances. Murphy commented, “Jamie has been one of the guys who has been there for me, giving me a good hand and, if I need advice, telling me I can go to him.”
The flanker feels back-row colleagues Heaslip and Sean O’Brien did ‘phenomenally well’ with the British and Irish Lions this summer. Ireland captain Heaslip was impressive on his second Lions tour but was dropped by head coach Warren Gatland for the Third Test against Australia.
“Obviously, I’m going to be prejudiced,” said Murphy, “but I would have hoped he would have started. Jamie’s an out-and-out professional and I know, when he heard the news, it was all about the team. It was like Brian [O'Driscoll] said at the time and I’m sure Jamie would have been no different.”
Jamie Heaslip was forced to watch the Lions decider against Australia after starting the first Two Tests. ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Despite missing the Sydney clash with the Wallabies Down Under, Heaslip will play with the tag ‘Lions series winner’ this season and beyond. Murphy, who travelled to the Tbilisi Cup with Emerging Ireland, believes the successful summers for Ireland [Norther American tour] and the Irish Lions will benefit Leinster’s international brigade.
He said, “We had a good couple of lads on the Lions tour so it was a great experience for them and with myself, for example, I hadn’t been on a tour with a senior Irish side. Either had Ian Madigan. It has definitely given everyone that extra boost and the desire to strive for more this year.
“Winning is always going to help your mentality, help your confidence. Since the [Lions] guys have come back they have been raring to go and are even more excited than they were before last season.”
Leinster’s first three league fixtures are tricky, with away dates at Parc y Scarlets and Scotstoun. Heaslip and O’Brien will be eased back into RaboDirect Pro12 duty next month. Murphy and players such as Rhys Ruddock and Dominic Ryan will hope to stake a claim for back-row slots.
“There’s always a bit of an opportunity when some of the guys, who have been away on senior tours, don’t come straight back in. That’s how you look to progress and you’ve just got to take your chance when it is there.”