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Dublin: 16 °C Sunday 27 May, 2018
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'From a Munster perspective it shows that we're doing something right down here'

Conor Murray admits there has been “more of a togetherness” about Munster this season.

CONOR MURRAY BELIEVES that the November international debuts for his provincial team-mates are a further indication that Munster are moving in the right direction.

Munster trio John Ryan, Billy Holland and Jack O’Donoghue all got their first taste of senior action for Ireland in last month’s 52-21 defeat of Canada at the Aviva Stadium.

Simon Zebo and Conor Murray Simon Zebo and Conor Murray in training with Munster at UL yesterday. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

As they turn their attentions to European Champions Cup action on Saturday, the southern province are setting the pace in the Guinness Pro12. But Rassie Erasmus’ side are now heading into a challenging period of fixtures, including five European games and two inter-provincial derbies between this weekend and the end of January.

“I suppose the Irish squad has been, and rightly so, dominated by Leinster players and Ulster players over the last four or five years,” said Murray on ‘The Crooked Feed’, a new podcast on MunsterRugby.ie which is hosted by Munster hooker Duncan Casey.

“That’s probably something we use as motivation in our province, which is natural enough. Over the last four or five years they have been the driving forces, particularly Leinster, so there’s no argument there.

“But to see some guys come in — like Jack, like John, like Billy — has been brilliant. From a Munster perspective as a whole, it just shows that we’re doing something right down here right now. We are hopefully on an upward curve with a big, testing eight weeks ahead.

“With the European games, the derbies, and the European games again, that will be a real test of where we’re at. But right now I think things are going really, really well and it’s great to see.”

After playing a pivotal role in a successful November with Ireland that included victories against New Zealand and Australia, Murray is expected to return to the Munster number nine shirt for Saturday’s clash with Leicester Tigers at Thomond Park.

Ireland’s Conor Murray Murray delivered a superb performance in Ireland's defeat of the All Blacks in Chicago. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

In the absence of their international contingent, Munster managed to maintain their good run of form. Since the untimely death of head coach Anthony Foley in October, the province have won six games in succession.

Back-to-back European games against Leciester will be followed by festive fixtures against Leinster and Connacht in the Guinness Pro12, before Munster return to Champions Cup action in January for a pair of games against Racing 92 and an away tie with Glasgow Warriors.

“Coming back down after November, you know there’s been a buzz around the squad and around the team. The team have been winning close games, which last year or the year before I would bet that we would have lost.

“There just seems to be more of a togetherness about the group right now. Whether Axel passing had a part to play in that — which is natural — I think before that anyway we had been building something really good here.

“It’s going to be a massive test of where we’re at but it’s really exciting. They are big games, they are pressure games, but that’s why you play this game and that’s why the more you play these games, the more you savour these types of atmospheres and these types of occasions, these types of weeks.

“We have a home European game at the weekend and the buzz is going to be around the city, people are going to be chatting to you, and you’ll really get a sense of it. They’re really special times to be involved.”

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Paul Dollery

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