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'It shows you that they're human' - Chicago changed everything for Ireland

Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray underlined the confidence within Joe Schmidt’s squad.

CHICAGO CHANGED EVERYTHING for Ireland.

After a 111-year wait, Irish rugby finally and belatedly had its first-ever win against New Zealand in a senior men’s Test match.

Suddenly, the Kiwis didn’t seem like superhumans.

Now, it’s worth remembering that they came to Dublin a fortnight later in November 2016 and delivered a vicious performance to gain a degree of revenge.

conor-murray Murray is confident about what this Ireland team can do. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

But the success in Chicago laid the foundation for Ireland’s second win over the New Zealanders in Dublin last November, and Joe Schmidt’s squad come into tomorrow’s World Cup quarter-final with more confidence than ever about taking on the almighty All Blacks.

“With the record we had against New Zealand up to that point [in Chicago], there was always that doubt – how do you get past that roadblock that is beating the All Blacks?” said Conor Murray yesterday in Ireland’s team hotel in Tokyo Bay.

“You have a certain amount of confidence then just getting past that roadblock, that’s how I’d describe it.

“It’s a massive boost of confidence, it shows you that they’re human. It just gives you that massive self-belief that you might have been restricted by the record that was there, that we hadn’t beaten them.

“To go on and do it again with the Lions in New Zealand and then, obviously, for the majority of the squad to do it last November, it just gives you that extra kind of purpose and that reason to feel good about yourselves.

“It’s exciting. I’m really excited about this game, I think there’s just a sense that you want to go out and perform as well as you can and these are really rare occasions that you get to do this, especially against the All Blacks in a World Cup.

“And we need to have a good bit of confidence about us because we’ve done it before, a majority of the lads have done it in the green of Ireland.

“You don’t want to be restricted, you want to just go for it.”

inpho_01622668 Murray working on his passing at training in Tokyo.

Murray had the difficult experience of having to watch on from the stands last November, injury having ruled him out of that second win over the All Blacks in Dublin, meaning he is craving the feeling of “doing something special” again tomorrow.

While he underlines that Ireland have yet to deliver their best at this World Cup, the experienced scrum-half takes major belief from this team’s achievements under Schmidt, which include a Grand Slam and a series success in Australia.

“You look back at the history of this team; we have been there and done it against big opposition,” said the Munster man.

“It’s unusual for an Irish team to say that. I think over the last four or five years, we have kind of earned the right to feel like that at times.

“Having performed pretty well in the last couple of weeks and with a bit more to go and the fact, again going back, that we have been there knowing that we can perform at those levels is really exciting.  

“That day in Chicago, we were really excited, the confidence levels were up, we were enjoying it… you’ve got to enjoy these moments, you’ve got to prepare as well as you can, give it your all, but enjoyment helps you be confident.

“You take those chances that if you were a little bit nervous, you might be a bit restricted, you might be a bit tense. But the group is a confident group, a realistic group, and it’s a good one to be involved in.”

Murray’s halfback partnership with Johnny Sexton will be crucial if Ireland are to cause another upset tomorrow.

jonathan-sexton-celebrates-scoring-their-second-try-with-conor-murray-and-garry-ringrose Sexton and Murray have combined superbly for Ireland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

They’re set for a new record 56th start together in Ireland’s number nine and 10 shirts, moving them one clear of Peter Stringer and Ronan O’Gara. Sexton said earlier this week that the early signs for himself and Murray as a combination hadn’t been too promising, but they have been superb together in more recent years.

“The lead-up to my first World Cup in 2011, we’d had a few arguments on the pitch but I suppose that’s how you iron things out,” said Murray.

“He was there for a while and I was probably learning on the go at that World Cup and there was a bit of miscommunication. But since then it’s been really fruitful, I suppose. We have had ups and downs, but more often than not we’ve gone pretty well together.

“I haven’t thought about that record, to be honest with you, it’s too big a week to think about things like that. It is pretty nice when you think about it, Strings and ROG had an awful lot of games together and it’s something to be proud of later on down the road.

“But yeah, I’m surprised we’ve made it this far!”

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Murray Kinsella

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