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Murray excited by 'fresh' Farrell era after Ireland's World Cup failings

The Munster scrum-half is focused on enjoying his rugby again after the dejection in Japan.

CONOR MURRAY’S FIRST media duties since…

“Since then?” prompts the Munster scrum-half as the opening question comes, which is actually a query about how he has settled back into life with his province.

‘Then’ means Ireland’s World Cup quarter-final exit against New Zealand just over four weeks ago, with the public post-mortem ever since having involved suggestions of many different reasons as to why it all went so wrong for Joe Schmidt’s side.

conor-murray-dejected Murray after Ireland's World Cup exit against New Zealand. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Their poor form across 2019 has been much discussed, with all of us wondering how things collapsed so comprehensively after a stunning 2018.

The poor performances by senior figures, a failure to evolve their game plan, Schmidt’s loyalty to his more experienced players, the intensity of their camp – those are just a few of the factors that have been talked about.

While the IRFU’s review into the World Cup campaign will not be published for supporters to read, the union’s performance director, David Nucifora, is due to hold a media briefing next month where some of the findings will be discussed.

Ireland’s performances, which included a shock defeat to hosts Japan in the pool stages, may have sparked wide-ranging debates, but Murray simply believes that he and his team-mates failed to perform on the big occasion.

The scrum-half yesterday defended Schmidt’s game plan, stating that the players had not executed.

“We did a great pre-season, we prepared really well and opened up really well against Scotland,” said Murray when asked to reflect on what had gone wrong for Ireland.

“Japan was a tough game, they got their purple patch and we didn’t manage to deal with it. We went 12-3 up and then they got a purple patch. I’ve got to say they got a few [refereeing] decisions, a good few decisions and that can turn the tide in a game.

“But their energy and things, they did probably deserve to turn the tide. Russia was an alright game and then against Samoa, we got things up and running, got a bit of confidence behind us again.”

But against New Zealand, Ireland came up well short.

conor-murray Murray feels Ireland simply failed to perform on the day. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“Then we know how good we are and how well we prepared,” said Murray. “In sport, this is my summary of it… some days in sport, it just doesn’t go according to plan. Everything you have prepared for and thought you’d see, you didn’t see.

“We had two really good chances at linebreaks, I’m not going to say try-scoring chances, but linebreaks in the first half and spilled the ball. Certainly, off one, they turned the ball over and scored straight away.

“On the other one, it took a few phases but that’s where the turnover started. Two tries down, then it’s really hard to get back into the game. They smothered us and we probably forced it.

“It was a shame that it was such a big occasion. Sometimes you just can’t explain why it went wrong.

“People saying that our game plan became predictable… if we played well and we executed that chance for a linebreak, scored off the back of it and went 7-0 up, suddenly there’s nothing wrong with your game plan. When it goes the opposite way, that’s when people are obliged to say that or feel they can say it.

“Within our group, we were really confident about what we were trying to do. Our game plan was brilliant, it was just a shame we didn’t execute because we created chances. That’s what I’m trying to get across, we created but we didn’t finish.

“New Zealand were brilliant that day. I think out of the top six teams in the world, anyone can beat each other on any given day. You saw it with England, dominating New Zealand and then being beaten by South Africa. Obviously, our defeat was quite heavy but you process it, try to get over it.”

Murray said he will “carry” the pain of Ireland’s failure for some time and pointed out that there are “certain motivational things” that can come of the disappointment.

conor-murray Murray at Munster training yesterday in UL. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

The Munster man will be 34 by the time the next tournament rolls around and he’s aware that Japan may have been his final shot at a World Cup.

“It would be nice to get that chance again but you might not,” said Murray.

He is, however, set to be involved as the next Ireland era kicks off under new head coach Andy Farrell with an extended squad gathering in late December to look towards the 2020 Six Nations, which gets underway in just over 10 weeks’ time.

Murray feels it’s the ideal time for a new focus with Ireland under Farrell as they look to shake off the latest World Cup failure.

“I think going into camp now with a freshness, a new head coach and things like that, it’s a fresh thing that players can attack, rather than having been together for so long and going back to the exact same set-up,” said Murray.

“Even though it was really good, maybe it’s just weirdly good timing to freshen things up.”

More pressing for Murray right now is helping Munster to build on their positive start to the Heineken Champions Cup last weekend, when he was at scrum-half as they secured a bonus-point win away to the Ospreys.

Racing 92 visit Thomond Park on Saturday with familiar faces in the shape of Simon Zebo, Donnacha Ryan, and attack coach Mike Prendergast, having impressed in their own opening win over a weakened Saracens team in Paris last weekend.

conor-murray Munster face Racing 92 in Thomond Park on Saturday. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Murray hopes to put the World Cup dejection behind him with a successful season in red. 

“We had a break after obviously and let the dust settle, processed it and not mourned it… just got over it and made sure I came back in here with the right attitude.

“You could have easily come back in here and moped about, nearly not be motivated for the rest of the year because the World Cup is such a big deal and we put so much pressure on ourselves.

“You have to be mature about it – that’s over, it’s gone. There’s still plenty of rugby to play, you have the opportunity to play well for the rest of the year and do something positive.

“Out of the 12 of us who came back, we all came back with a good mindset and getting back out there, even just getting out training, getting back to enjoying rugby because by the end of the World Cup, the way we went out was just tough. It was a tough time and a tough place to be.

“We’re coming back to enjoying rugby and it’s been brilliant the last two weeks, playing a few minutes against Ulster and then playing last week, it was great. To get the win and be enjoying playing rugby for that exact reason is brilliant.

“Obviously, the aim is to win trophies with this club but I think it’s just being back in here and trying to get better, enjoy rugby, improve your craft. There’s where I’m at, trying to get as good as I can and go from there.”

- Originally published at 06.30

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