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'Some lads were saying it might be the only chance you get to do this'

Ireland’s Under 20s are one game away from winning a grand slam and their title-chasing coach is challenging them to remain focused on the job in hand.

Ireland U20s are one win away from glory.
Ireland U20s are one win away from glory.
Image: Ben Brady/INPHO

RICHIE MURPHY HAS challenged his grand slam chasing Under 20 side to resist the temptation to think of the prize at the end of Sunday’s decider against Scotland, and retain a sense of composure as they prepare for the biggest game of their young careers.

Victories over Wales and Italy at home, and more impressively, France and England away, have pushed Ireland to the brink of a second grand slam in four years at this level.

The likelihood of them sealing the deal are high considering Scotland’s poor form thus far in this competition. And yet Murphy is too long in the tooth to get carried away with thoughts of glory.

While slip-ups happen when young players lose concentration, Murphy also has to consider the fact that for many of these players, this will be as big as it gets. Some may go on to represent Ireland at senior level but the vast majority will not. Deep down, they all know that.

Some lads were saying it might be the only chance you get to do this,” said Murphy, who previously worked in the Leinster and Ireland senior set-ups as a skills coach.

“It’s not something we talk about too often. We try and deal just with the facts, being very clinical in terms of preparation, knowing that if we deliver what we’ve delivered so far it’ll be good enough to get us over the line. We’re trying to not get caught up in the emotion of the thing. It’s all there, all in the background. It’s not something we ignore, but it’s not something we concentrate on.”

richie-murphy Murphy has steered the team forward. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

They have had enough to keep them busy, a schedule that has allowed their momentum to build. Wales was an easy start, France a tortuous follow-up. Even Italy, whipping boys at senior level, was a severe test. Then came England at Saracens’ home patch last Saturday. Ireland trailed 10-0 early on before blowing their more physical opponents away.

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“Going into the first game against Wales, there were a couple of areas of our game we were worried about,” says Murphy, “but over the whole in the past couple of weeks we’ve seen the guys come on really well.

“That was giving us a great start, giving us the confidence to go to France. Everything we talked about in France happened, which was great for the lads because I think they got great confidence in that, from the crowd and all those external factors, and then the game panned out similar to how we imagined it might, getting an opportunity late in the game. They were incredible the way they stuck to it.

“That really kicked them on, and the confidence in the group has grown. They’re driving their own agenda at this stage, we’re reminding them and keeping them on task, going back and trying to drive the things we started with.

“Our first camp was in October, the things we talked about in that very first camp when there were 50-odd players there, we talked about it yesterday in our review. It’s been a consistent message all the way through, and the guys have really bought into that.”

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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