Tuesday 31 January 2023 Dublin: 6°C
©INPHO/Billy Stickland Conor Murray gives it a lash in training.
Guinness Series: Murray knows the drill - if in doubt, kick it out
The Munster scrum-half teams up with Jonny Sexton and swears he has learned a tough lesson from a shocker in Paris.

CONOR MURRAY STARTS a professional game for the 34th time today, against South Africa, at the Aviva Stadium.

The Munster scrum-half has scored a try, came off the bench against Zebre and witnessed the arrival of a new Ireland captain since start number 32 against Racing Metro in Paris.

The Heineken Cup pool match is four weeks in the past now but Murray is not about to forget that his double rush of blood to the head cost Munster a vital win.

After allowing a punted ball to sneak under his right boot, Murray gathered it and chose to run from deep inside his 22. He was caught in possession, a penalty conceded and Olly Barkley converted it to edge Racing ahead.

“I had a bad day in Paris against Racing,” he told, “but I think I got that out of my system against Edinburgh [Murray scored a vital try] the week after.”

When asked what he has learned from his mental aberration in France, Murray replies, “I suppose kick the ball out when you’re winning, when you’re ahead.

“You learn from your mistakes … those mistakes happen to everyone but hopefully it won’t happen again.”

Keeper of the jersey

With Murray injured in March, Eoin Reddan started the Six Nations defeat to England at Twickenham.

Since his return, encompassing three gruelling encounters against the All Blacks, the 23-year-old has been the man is possession of the number nine jersey. It must give Murray confidence, knowing that Declan Kidney has placed his chips behind him.

“I don’t know about that,” he conceded. “It’s a new season and obviously Redser and Paul Marshall and a few others have been playing really well.”

He will be hoping that Ireland cap number 13, his first game against the Springboks, provides a spot of luck and a fifth victory.

“From talking to the lads who’ve played against them before it’s definitely going to be physical and they’ve got a great kicking game,” said Murray.

He is relying on openside Chris Henry to make it “messy” for the Boks’ Ruan Pienaar at the breakdown. All other tips on how to stop the Ulster scrum-half would be welcomed.

Sexton looking to repeat ’09 heroics

Murray’s partner in the half-back pairing, Jonny Sexton, made a name for himself on the international stage in 2009 when he kicked five penalties in Ireland’s 15-10 win over South Africa.

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Sexton announced himself with an assured display against South Africa three years ago. (©INPHO/James Crombie)

The out-half was brought into the loop on the Irish captaincy before Declan Kidney opted for his Leinster colleague, Jamie Heaslip, but he can be expected to park the disappointment at missing out come kick-off.

Opposite number Pat Lambie is ‘a threat with the ball in hand and likes to run with it’ but he does not expect the Springboks to differentiate from the full-frontal style of play that proved testing if beatable in The Rugby Championship.

Big kicks with the left boot and ‘speed coming into the line’ are, according to Sexton, two of the tantalising factors that new fullback Simon Zebo brings to the Irish team.

He believes Ireland made the schoolboy mistake of going hell-for-leather when 21-0 early doors against the All Blacks and preaches discipline for today’s Test.

“If we can be in it with 20 minutes to go,” he said, “in Test rugby, anything can happen.”

They’re big, strong and they want to run over you – captain Heaslip on the Springbok science

Open Thread: How will Ireland fare against South Africa?