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Murray looks to rebound from Paris embarrassment under eye of 'priceless' Farrell

The Munster scrum-half disagrees with the idea that his side don’t have talent and passion.

TAKE PAUL O’CONNELL out of any squad and you shear it of extraordinary levels of leadership.

Munster had to plan for this season without their former lock, of course, but to then lose Peter O’Mahony and Felix Jones in unforeseen fashion has left Anthony Foley’s group lacking in obvious leaders.

Conor Murray Conor Murray is looking to put his hand up as a leader. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

The aggressive back row and intelligent fullback would have been key elements in the province’s squad but for long-term injury and enforced retirement, respectively, leaving number eight CJ Stander to assume the captaincy.

The 25-year-old has led by barnstorming example throughout the campaign, but from the outside it has appeared that Munster are lacking influential figures who lift standards, inspire others, cut out unacceptable errors and manage match officials.

Scrum-half Conor Murray, who has been mentioned as a possible Ireland captain, doesn’t quite see it that way.

I don’t think so,” says Murray. “I think CJ’s doing an awesome job and people are rallying around him and leading as well. I think we have a clear idea of how we want to play – our defence, attack and everything.

“Obviously losing someone like Pete and Felix is huge for a squad and people have to step up and people are definitely trying to step up. Whether that has an impact, you’ll probably have to wait until the end of the year and see how it goes in the long-term. At the moment I don’t see it.”

Instead, Murray views Munster’s problem as a genuine loss of form. The criticism of the province since last weekend’s defeat to Stade Français has been strong, and has also extended deeper into Munster as an organisation.

Murray says Munster “were embarrassed” in Paris, but believes that the current problems stem simply from a lack of confidence.

“We have to have a good look at ourselves and our behaviours,” says the Ireland scrum-half. “Pointing fingers is one thing but at the same time we have to stay tight.

Conor Murray Murray is expected to sign a new Munster contract very soon. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“There’s a lot of criticism of us as a team at the moment, we can’t really look outside the group to fix that. We’ve got to stay tight together, try and figure it out ourselves and come out this weekend and start to perform.

“We got to the final of the Pro12 last year with basically the same squad so we’re not a bad team, we’re just going through a tough patch.

We have to fully believe we can turn this around. People are saying there’s a lack of passion, lack of talent or whatever. I don’t necessarily agree with that. I can see why supporters and media would say that, and it’s up to us to fix it.

We look at the game and we can see why people would say there’s no passion when we’re falling off soft tackles or we’re getting outmuscled, which is something Munster teams never really did, so it’s up to us to recognise how fans and media see it and try and fix it.”

Murray explains that Munster went back to basics in training this week, picking out “the three most important things” needed to bring improvement and working intensely on those, rather than attempting to cover all areas in their preparation for tomorrow’s clash with Stade in Thomond Park [KO 1pm, Sky Sports].

The presence of Andy Farrell, Munster’s new ‘consultant’, has also added something different to the mix. The Englishman was present again yesterday as Foley’s squad went through their session, and Murray says his arrival has given the squad a lift.

Farrell worked with Murray in his capacity as Lions defence coach in 2013, and the scrum-half speaks highly of his qualities.

Anthony Foley with Conor Murray Murray says Foley's coaching team was lacking nothing. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“As a person, to be able to talk to and approach, he is a very easy going guy, not at all intimidating – although he might seem it! He is a great fella, he knows his stuff, he really gets you believing in what he wants you to do.”

Murray rejects the notion that there was anything lacking in the current Munster coaching set-up, bringing about the need for Farrell to be parachuted in, instead pointing out that the province is always looking for ways to get better.

“There was nothing lacking. Andy is going to look at our whole system, our defence, our attack and what can be improved on. And so, if you are talking about our own defence at the moment, our system is brilliant, we fully understand it, it just comes to a point where it is the personal responsibility of each player.

I said it in the review. It is man-on-man tackles that are missed one-on-one that are costing us, gifting the opposition soft scores and then making it really hard for us to score.

“The system and the structure is there. The coaches are doing everything they can. To have Andy in is just another boost for us. Apparently it had been in the pipeline for a while. It just seems as if it’s a knee-jerk reaction, because of the timing. He might see things differently, have a different perspective and then maybe we will improve in different areas.”

“So to have that fresh perspective, coincidentally at this time when we are struggling a little bit, it is a priceless asset for us to have at the moment.”

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Murray Kinsella

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