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Dublin: 6°C Saturday 28 November 2020

'Joe got us believing that we were good enough to beat anyone'

Conor Murray remains hopeful that Joe Schmidt will remain as Ireland coach beyond 2017.

CONOR MURRAY BELIEVES Ireland could deal with losing Joe Schmidt as head coach next summer, but underlined his desire to see the New Zealander stay on beyond 2017.

Schmidt has been at home in New Zealand in recent weeks pondering his future, with a decision about whether to remain with Ireland through to the 2019 World Cup weighing on his mind.

Joe Schmidt Schmidt has yet to confirm his decision. Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

The Highlanders have expressed an interest in recruiting Schmidt to take over ahead of the 2018 Super Rugby season, while the possibility of Dave Rennie leaving the Chiefs next year would open another avenue back into New Zealand rugby for Schmidt.

Schmidt’s stated intention to make the IRFU aware of his decision this summer comes on account of his desire to allow the union to recruit strongly if he is to leave in 2017.

From a players’ point of view, Munster scrum-half Murray feels Schmidt has brought Ireland to a high enough level that they could cope with his departure as head coach.

“When you have a system, you don’t want to stop and change it,” said Murray in Cork yesterday. “We’re not broken and we don’t need to be fixed. But we’ve learned an awful lot of things from him as individuals and as a group that we can maintain if Joe does go.

We can keep moving forward. We know what works, we know what it takes to win in certain situations. If he did leave, you may take a hit for a while depending on who comes in and their brand of rugby and style of play. I would hope we could continue on an upward curve.”

While Murray is realistic about how professional rugby works and acknowledges that players would be able to move on if Schmidt left the Ireland job, the Limerick man stressed that Schmidt has made a major impact on himself and the squad.

Murray hopes the Schmidt reign continues beyond 2017.

“As a player, especially with Ireland – no more than with Munster or any level – coaches change. They come in and out of your life and make an impression on you. They each leave marks on you in different ways.

“Joe was brilliant for me personally and for Ireland he has been unbelievable in terms of the success that he has brought. He got us believing that we were good enough to beat anyone and I don’t really think we ever truly believed that before.

“That changed my focus and I had a chat to [Schmidt] at the beginning of his tenure. He told me he had a few things he needed me to focus on. I worked hard on a few things and he definitely improved me as a player.

Conor Murray Murray in Munster's new alternate jersey. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“So if you ask me if I’d like him to stay, I’d say yeah. He’s been brilliant. He brings success, he breeds success. He’s a winner and he wants to keep winning. It would be great.

“If he decides to move on, to the Lions or New Zealand or whatever, you’d wish him the best of luck. He’s made a lasting impression on Irish rugby. But you’d like him to stay because he’s a coach who gets the best out of players.

“It’s professional sport. People come and go, players, staff, rugby coaches, physios and doctors. It’s part and parcel of sport. He knows that we would like him to stay. He’s a smart guy. He knows how valuable he is to us.”

As for any insight into how Schmidt has been thinking about the conundrum, Murray claimed he is in the dark, disappointing the fans who have been stopping him in the street with queries about the Ireland coach.

Murray expects to see Schmidt in mid-August when Ireland link up for their first training camp of the season. After a review of June’s series defeat to South Africa, that gathering will see attention turn to November’s clash with New Zealand in Chicago, a fresh chance for history.

It’s exciting that is one of the big three and it is a massive challenge,” said Murray.

“We still have players [who missed the South Africa tour] to come in and some of them would have been at home watching with a bit of fear because lads in their position were doing so well.

“Like always, over the past few years, that massive competition will drive us, beginning with the provinces and hopefully getting us to a good level ahead of that massive November series.

“There’s so much history with the Chicago game and the last game against the All Blacks was so close. It’s going to be an exciting time.”

Munster Rugby and adidas have launched the new Munster Rugby Alternate jersey which is available only at Life Style Sports, along with all Munster Rugby training kit and supporter’s wear. See and/or #MunsterRising for further details. 

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Murray Kinsella

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