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'I wasn’t panicking' - Conor Murray unfazed by debate about his Six Nations form

Ireland’s scrum-half has been ignoring the debate around his form in the Six Nations.

WHAT’S UP WITH Conor Murray?

It’s a question that has been asked many times during this Six Nations. 

He’s still carrying an injury. He’s lost focus. His skills have gone backwards.

The suggestions and theories have been plentiful, although they have eased in the wake of Ireland’s win over France on Sunday.

Conor Murray The Munster man has been doing his best to ignore the debate around his form. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The man himself has been doing his best to ignore the chat, convinced that he has only been marginally off the kind of form he delivered during Ireland’s Grand Slam run last year.

“Genuinely, I don’t see media and I think it is really important for me not to,” said Murray yesterday when asked how he has felt about the fretting over his form.

“Punters, well, they listen to the media.  I suppose you feel it when your family is asking you how you are.  

“I have felt good, I have felt really good. During that time, you have to stay realistic and focus on what hasn’t been working.

“They’ve been small things, things you can easily fix. I wasn’t panicking and changing the way I’ve been training or the way I view the game or putting more pressure on or trying harder within the group.   

“My chats to the coaches were small things, small little fixes. You know, maybe, the turnover against [Tito] Tebaldi in the Italy game had a massive effect. They ended up going the length of the pitch and scoring a try.

“That is a small thing but obviously a big effect.”

Murray’s game has been under more scrutiny than ever since Ireland’s defeat to England on the opening day of the championship.

Every pass, every kick, every carry, every decision, every tackle.

Conor Murray Murray was in sharp form against France last weekend. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

While many have seen consistent negatives in Murray’s contributions for Ireland, the scrum-half feels that he’s actually in a similar place to this time last year. He hopes to finish this Six Nations with his best performance yet against Wales on Saturday.

“I’m really realistic, I’m really honest with myself,” said Murray. “I’m working with a couple of video analysts in here and in Munster. 

“I’m looking at my game in detail and it hasn’t been much different, I’m sorry to tell you. 

“Actually I’m not sorry to tell you, but it genuinely hasn’t. There’s been a few things I would have been upset with over the tournament.  You can talk about form and what is form? It’s small things. 

“Confidence-wise, obviously, you are trying to get to the level that you’re used to. In reality, it is only small little details that we’ve been working on and trying to fix. 

“Sunday was a step in the right direction. There is another big one to come this weekend and we will try and put in another good performance, really get things going.”

Murray’s halfback partner, Johnny Sexton, has also faced major question marks over his form for Ireland, although Murray said it’s been no surprise that those wearing jerseys number nine and 10 have come into focus.

“I’ve gotten that my whole career. When we struggle to get on the front foot or a team slows down our ball, the nine and 10 are usually the first people to cop flak for it.  

“That’s just the way it is. Again, when the team is struggling or is a little bit off, it will come back on you sometimes.  

“That’s something I had to be okay with from an early age. It’s not just happening now, it’s the way it’s been for a while. 

Conor Murray Murray will start against the Welsh on Saturday. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“If you look at Sunday, our breakdown was terrific and it allowed us quick ball, allowed us to have a little more time to pick the right option, play our game quicker and have more flow about us.

“It’s all intertwined, we’re all dependent on each other. You do have to look at yourself first and put yourself in the best space and prepare as well as you can so that you can play as well as you can in that team.”

After Sunday’s improved performance against the French, Murray is excited for this weekend’s chance to close out the championship on a positive note by beating a confident Wales side and denying them a Grand Slam in the process.

Murray has no doubt that Warren Gatland and Rob Howley, who he worked under on the 2017 Lions tour, will have the Welsh in a good place but insists Ireland are focusing on their own game.

“Cardiff is one of my favourite places to go and play, the place is going to be electric, their fans are going to expect a Grand Slam,” said Murray.

“We still have a sniff of a title, I think we’re going over mainly to build on our performances because the first three were below par.

“We’re going over there to perform, it’s not ok to release the pressure and say, ‘We’ve had a decent performance against France.’

“We want to go again and kinda sign off on the Six Nations with another strong performance in a decent place before we break up for a while.”

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Murray Kinsella

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