Laszlo Geczo/INPHO Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray.
'He's been through a lot, but I've never seen him break'
Conor Murray has proven his doubters wrong once again in this Six Nations.

IT WOULD HAVE been understandable if Conor Murray’s form for Ireland had dipped away during this Six Nations.

He was dropped by Munster in January, even being left out of their matchday 23 for a Champions Cup game. That would have rocked many players’ confidence levels. Some might not even have come back from it.

Ireland boss Andy Farrell kept the faith, though, and when Jamison Gibson-Park went down injured the day before the opening game against Wales, Murray stepped into the number nine shirt and delivered an excellent performance.

Those who have long since made up their minds that Murray is finished were blind to it, but his display in Cardiff was full of high-tempo passing and all-round composure.

The following week, Murray was faced with a traumatic situation off the pitch. His father, Gerry, was hospitalised with serious injuries after his bike was hit by a truck near the family home in Patrickswell.

Murray’s involvement in the game against France that weekend was in doubt and he missed Ireland’s main training session of the week, but with the prognosis for his father looking more positive as the days passed, Murray decided to play that Saturday.

It must have been difficult to summon the focus and energy after a week like that but Murray was superb again in what was one of Ireland’s best-ever performances in the Six Nations.

In round three, Farrell opted to give Craig Casey a starting chance but he called on Murray in the final quarter with the game still in the balance. Murray was sharp once again, sniping and offloading brilliantly for Mack Hansen’s game-sealing try.

And tomorrow against Scotland, Murray is back in the number nine shirt. That’s despite Gibson-Park’s return from injury. He has to settle for a place on the bench and Farrell pointed out that Murray’s form means he deserves to start again.

The Ireland boss is a huge fan of Murray’s mental strength and hasn’t been shocked at his latest show of resilience.

“It doesn’t surprise me, first and foremost,” said Farrell.

“It takes a lot to shake him. He’s been through a lot, hasn’t he over the last few years, but I’ve never seen him break. I’ve never his confidence, his will break at all. He’s just kept working hard.

conor-murray Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Murray has had an excellent Six Nations so far. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

“I’ve never seen him sulk. I’ve never seen him feel sorry for himself. It just shows the character of the man and that’s why he’s playing like he is.

“That’s how it’s been so far in this campaign for him. He’s still able to perform like he has. It’s a credit to him and his family how he’s handled the whole thing.”

Murray will earn his 104th Ireland cap tomorrow in Edinburgh. He’s one of only eight Irish centurions. He has eight Test caps for the Lions too, having travelled on three tours.

There is no doubt that Murray is the greatest Irish scrum-half ever. And yet, some of his critics will tell you that he can’t play at pace and simply box-kicks the ball away aimlessly.

Unsurprisingly, Farrell disagrees with what he sees as inaccurate typecasting of Murray.

“Unfairly, sometimes the player gets judged on a certain style of game and sometimes he’s just following orders you know?” said Farrell.

“What can the player do, he just conforms. I’ve always had confidence in Conor’s ability. Have a look at how he started his international career. What type of game was he playing then?

“He was playing quick and he was darting around making breaks, etc. That’s him. That’s naturally him being himself and, over time, certain styles come in for winning different types of games. Conor conforms to that and he’s enjoying his rugby at the minute.”

Having bounced back once again, Murray is now within sight of his second Grand Slam with Ireland and his fourth Six Nations title overall. At the age of 33, there is plenty of good stuff still ahead of him.

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