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Ireland Women centre Murphy striving for perfection at World Cup

The 25-year-old and her teammates have lofty ambitions for the tournament in France.

Inside centre Murphy stretches out to score against Italy at the Aviva Stadium during the Six Nations.
Inside centre Murphy stretches out to score against Italy at the Aviva Stadium during the Six Nations.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“WE WOULD DEFINITELY demand or strive for perfection on the team. I know you’re not going to get it with rugby, but we want to keep on pushing it forward.”

Jenny Murphy’s mindset provides a fine insight into the high performance culture that the Ireland Women’s squad have built in recent years.

A Grand Slam in 2013 was the most obvious demonstration of the results of the ongoing professionalism within Philip Doyle’s group, while Ireland have realistic ambitions of a strong finish in next month’s World Cup in France.

We feel that if we get into the top four… who knows from there? We could win it. It’s going to be tough to get into the top four, but we wouldn’t aim for it if we didn’t think we could achieve it,” says Murphy.

Earlier this month, the inside centre and her teammates travelled to Madrid to beat Spain 36-20 in a warm-up friendly that was “scrappy at times”, while they face Wales in their final preparation game this Sunday in Malahide RFC [KO 3.00pm].

Thereafter, Pool B of the World Cup awaits, also containing the US, New Zealand and Kazakhstan.

The Fiona Coghlan-captained Irish are focused on their opening fixture against the Americans on the 1st of August, but the clash with the Black Ferns on the 5th stands out – it being the first time Ireland play the Kiwis in the 15-a-side code.

Jenny Murphy Murphy carries through traffic against Scotland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We’ve played against some of these girls on the 7s circuit. They’re a phenomenal team and they’ve got such high standards from 1 to 23. It’ll be good to see how we’ll play against them,” says the Old Belvedere clubwoman.

“I’m still confident; I know that if we play our game well and come with the right mindset, we can cause an upset.”

This is Murphy’s maiden World Cup, having made her international debut in 2012. She acknowledges that “myself and Grace Davitt are fighting for that 12 jersey,” but welcomes that competition as a means to raising standards.

To be involved at all once seemed like a long shot for the 25-year-old, who won a Women’s FAI Cup and played in the Champions League qualifiers as a footballer with Peamount United.

During the last World Cup I was living in London and happened to go to one of the games; I never thought that I would be playing in one,” says Murphy, who has also excelled in inter-county Gaelic football.

Despite her relative inexperience on this stage, Murphy is eager to get started and hopes to be part of an Ireland midfield that will be crucial to their chances of success. Out-half Nora Stapleton and outside centre Lynne Cantwell are pillars of the side.

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“Nora is my club mate so obviously we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. She’s a really calming influence on me and she settles everyone, directs the game and is such an intelligent player.

“Lynne is so experienced and can create something out of nothing. She’s an exceptional player to watch and it’s an absolute privilege to play with her. You’d learn so much from her both on the pitch and her attitude off it as well.”

Jenny Murphy and Lynne Cantwell celebrate Murphy with Cantwell after the 2013 Grand Slam success. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Captain and prop Coghlan is equally as important, driving the standards within the squad both on and off the pitch.

“Anything less than perfection in training is not acceptable,” explains Murphy. “She’s the hardest worker on the pitch, and she just keeps on going. Fiona is such a great role model, not just for us on the team, but for women’s rugby in Ireland in general.

She’s recognised around the rugby world as an absolutely phenomenal captain. She demands excellence and in all the other sports I’ve played, Fiona is without a doubt the best captain I’ll ever have.”

Head coach Doyle is set to resign following the tournament, but in a further mark of this squad’s professionalism, the impending exit of a figure who has helped Irish women’s rugby to progress greatly is not the major focus.

“To be fair, he hasn’t spoken about it. He’s never brought it up; he doesn’t want any nostalgia or any sentimentality coming up to this tournament. He wants us to win because we want to win.

“It would be lovely to do it for him, but we’re also doing it for ourselves and for Ireland.”

Ireland Women play Wales in their final World Cup warm-up game on Sunday in Malahide RFC, with kick-off at 3.00pm.

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Murray Kinsella

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