Munster Man

'There's a bit of slagging at the moment, calling him ROG!'

Conor Murray is looking forward to welcoming Joey Carbery to Munster next season.

Murray Kinsella reports from Surfers Paradise

WITH HIS BIG decision having been made last week, Joey Carbery has been able to relax and enjoy the early days of Ireland’s tour of Australia.

Rugby squads are notoriously ruthless environments, however, and with the 22-year-old set to make the move from Leinster to Munster this summer, he has been the target of a fair few jokes.

“There’s a bit of slagging at the moment, calling him ROG!” explains Conor Murray, who is set to link up with Carbery in Munster’s halfback pairing next season.

Joey Carbery during training Carbery will be at Munster next season. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

They may have a chance to play together before that if Joe Schmidt opts to give Carbery greater exposure at out-half by pulling Johnny Sexton from the frontline for one of the three Tests in Australia.

Whether that happens or not, Murray is looking forward to the prospect of calling Carbery his Munster team-mate.

“It’s great, it makes sense for Joey especially,” says Murray. “He’s looking to get more game time, so he’s going to have to come down to Munster and compete for a place because there are lads who are hungry to have the number 10 jersey too because you’ve quite a few number 10s there now.

“Joey will boost our squad massively, he’s a class player. He’s 22, he’s learnt so much and has a lot of experience.

“You can even see what he’s learnt off Johnny, he steps in when Johnny steps out for reps and he’s well able to take hold of the team and control what’s going on. It’s very exciting.

“Game time is when your partnership starts to grow properly but hanging around with him and getting to know him over the last few years has been brilliant and that’ll definitely help when he comes down to Munster and we start to build something there.

“Like I said, he’s a top-quality player and it’s really exciting for Munster and Ireland.”

Carbery’s shift from Leinster to Munster is high-profile but there have been others to make the same move before, with the success of men like Andrew Conway and Felix Jones showing the way.

“Joey can see that it’s been done before,” says Murray. “There’s an opportunity there for him to go well. With Munster, we’ve been doing really well and we’re getting there.

Conor Murray Murray at Ireland's team base at Royal Pines Resort. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“This is just going to add another element to us; I’m sure the lads will tell him how to settle into Limerick life.”

There is much to look forward to with Munster in the 2018/19 campaign and Murray believes the province are progressing even if the end of their season was disappointing, particularly the Champions Cup semi-final against Racing when they “didn’t play and gave them a lead and blew it a little bit.”

But Murray was encouraged that Munster “played one of our best games of the year” in the Pro14 semi-final against Leinster, believing that there was close to nothing between the sides.

Provincial focus has been parked for now, however, as Murray and Ireland look to add a successful finishing note to what has been a sensational Grand Slam-winning season.

“I think this group, the success that we had the last time we were together was fantastic, we’ve all been aiming for that for quite a while, but we all want to finish this season on a high and we’re all really competitive that way,” says Murray.

“It’s a challenge to come here against one of the big-dog teams and put down a marker and to get a result down here is something everyone in our group wants to do – our coaching staff, the wider staff and our playing group. It’s a really competitive environment and I think we’re really good at that, just moving on and looking at the next target, our next challenge and this is great.”

Murray insists that Ireland don’t see themselves as favourites for this series and says himself and his team-mates have become experts at ignoring such noise on the outside of their camp.

The aerial threat of Israel Folau – “He can jump quite high, can’t he?” says Murray – a good set-piece, a back row including David Pocock and Michael Hooper, scrum-half general Will Genia and dangerous backs like Bernard Foley, Tevita Kuridrani and Kurtley Beale – Murray sees many different threats in a well-balanced team.

Conor Murray during training Murray and Ireland trained on the pitch yesterday. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“Their consistency is an awful lot better, you wouldn’t really worry about that too much,” says the Ireland scrum-half. “We’re more focused on the team and the individuals we’re playing and they’re littered with talented players.

“Just from my experience playing against Australia, it’s always really demanding on your lungs. They like to play with an awful lot of width, the game can break up at times and it’s often played at quite a quick pace.

“It’s going to be a massive challenge and this group wants it. I know this group wants to test themselves against the best and again, I’ll keep saying it, it’s a really exciting thing that we’re facing into.”

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