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'Maybe I’m just protecting my teammates but I thought it was a lot better'

Conor Murray feels Ireland closed the gap on England despite a fourth consecutive defeat.

Conor Murray insists Ireland are closing the gap on England.
Conor Murray insists Ireland are closing the gap on England.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

IRELAND MIGHT HAVE had some mix-ups on the pitch at Twickenham on Saturday, but they were all on-message in the immediate aftermath.

The sense of post-match positivity from Andy Farrell and his players was a little overwhelming as they insisted the gap to England is closing after an 18-7 defeat in the Autumn Nations Cup, their fourth consecutive loss to Eddie Jones’ men.

Conor Murray, who came off the bench in the second half, dismissed the notion that Ireland were a clear second best and stressed his belief that they were in with a real opportunity of winning only for missed chances.

“In terms of the gap between the two sides, I don’t know who’s watching it because in the first half, they’re proper scoring opportunities and we just didn’t take them, whether that be five, seven, or 12/14 points – it would have a completely different outlook at the time even and then towards the end of the game we were growing again,” said Murray.

“Maybe I’m biased or just protecting my teammates but I thought it was a lot better than we have done here.”

Murray felt Ireland had also conceded two first-half tries to Jonny May a little too easily.

“We worked really hard to get into their 22 and had set-pieces and opportunities. I wouldn’t say we gifted them tries because certainly Jonny May’s finish was a really good finish. He’s a really good player and sometimes that happens.

“But in general maybe they didn’t have to work as hard for their scores as we did for our opportunities. Yeah, watching on in the first half and then coming on we felt a lot better than we have been at Twickenham before, just little moments of… I think we’ll continue to grow as a group and make a lot of learnings from this game for sure.”

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Indeed, that was Murray’s overriding message – that Ireland were leaving Twickenham with their heads held high and perhaps even with their belief enhanced.

“They might have scored points, definitely, in the first half but if we had taken one or two of our opportunities – we did the hard work and got to within five metres out or whatever – then the game is up in the air as to who gets the win.

“So in terms of that alone there’s belief and then in terms of the general feeling leaving Twickenham this time, having not taken a couple of opportunities and having given away a couple of easy scores if you will, then there’s huge belief.”

“And that’s without going into the feeling in the squad, There’s an unbelievable atmosphere in terms of growth and mindset and things like that, and the excitement of youth and experience. I think lads in the dressing-room will be dying to get another chance at this England team.

“They’re a really good side and there’s a lot of respect there but I think we’ll be really eager to play them again.”

Ireland won’t have to wait too long for their next crack at the English, with Jones’ men due to visit Dublin on 20 March on the final day of the 2021 Six Nations.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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