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Relaxed Murray nearing return to his best in Munster colours, says rival Mathewson

‘He is not putting too much pressure on himself and he is back having fun playing’, said the Kiwi of his fellow no.9.

Conor Murray salutes the Munster faithful at Murrayfield.
Conor Murray salutes the Munster faithful at Murrayfield.
Image: Gary Carr/INPHO

MUNSTER SCRUM-HALF ALBY Mathewson says the province is close to seeing the best of Conor Murray now that he has left his Six Nations worries behind him and is relaxed about his game.

Mathewson and Murray have worked closely together since the New Zealander joined the province as injury cover for the Ireland man, but his short-term deal has now been extended twice and he will remain at the province until after the World Cup.

The former Toulon no.9 is expected to start in Treviso this Friday night as Munster seek a win to lift their hopes of top spot in Conference A, but Mathewson expects to see the best of Murray in the weeks ahead.

Conor Murray Conor Murray training with Munster ahead of this weekend's trip to Treviso. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“I guess the whole Irish team probably got a bit of criticism for their form,” said Mathewson.

“I think across the board they are obviously not happy with their form, but I think Conor, in the last few games for us and in Europe, he is getting back to his best.

I don’t know, maybe for a lot of them they might be putting too much pressure on themselves to perform rather than just go out there and play. I think the last few games watching Mur… The Six Nations is behind him and he is back enjoying playing with Munster and he is just back playing his game.

“He is not putting too much pressure on himself and he is back having fun playing. I think he is playing really well, so it’s good for us heading forward in the Pro14 and in Europe. And obviously for Ireland leading into the World Cup. It’s not like he can’t play really well — he has just got to relax and play his game.”

Victory over Cardiff last weekend means Munster are still in with a chance of topping Conference A, but they will hope to see provincial rivals Leinster do them a favour by beating Glasgow on Saturday.

Alby Mathewson Alby Mathewson speaking at Munster's press conference on Tuesday. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

A win against Benetton this Friday is priority number one though, and the scrum-half thinks the play-off chasing Italians are one of the league’s most dangerous sides.

“They’re playing great rugby and I think they’ve had one loss in their last 11 games. I actually know a lot of the players there, there’s quite a few Kiwi boys there.

“They’re full of internationals as well. On the weekend against Leinster their ability to hold the ball for multiple phases, I think two of their tries may have come off 20-plus phases but they are a physical team as well.

“They have a good set piece but their ability to play with the ball is something that we’re going to have to be aware of. Obviously playing away over there it will make it that little bit harder and they are pushing for a play-off spot — they have got a lot to play for as well.”

But there is pressure on Munster to perform on Friday too. With second place in the conference already guaranteed a defeat could end their hopes of winning the pool.

“Absolutely, there’s pressure. We’ve got goals where we want to be at the end of the season. But we can’t really worry about what other teams are going to do.

“We can only control the controllables. That’s first up at Treviso this weekend. We’ve got to make sure whoever is playing we’re right across our detail and ready for a tough game.”

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Declan Rooney

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