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Dublin: 3 °C Monday 17 February, 2020

History on the line for comeback kid Murphy as South Africa await

Taking on the Springboks at Newlands is some way to make your return admits the Leinster flanker.

Jordi Murphy is relishing a Test against the Springboks.
Jordi Murphy is relishing a Test against the Springboks.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Rory Keane reports from Cape Town

TAKING ON THE Springboks at Newlands is quite the way to make a comeback.

Like many of his Irish comrades, it took Jordi Murphy a while to recover from a World Cup hangover. The Leinster flanker found himself frozen out of the Six Nations campaign as Sean O’Brien, Josh van der Flier and Tommy O’Donnell all got through shifts on the openside flank. CJ Stander had made the blindside spot his own while Jamie Heaslip remains one of Joe Schmidt’s most trusted lieutenants.

Murphy admits himself that he just didn’t feel right for long parts of this season, a series of niggling injuries disrupting his quest for Test form.

“I just didn’t feel very fresh, I suppose,” Murphy explained.

“I had a few niggly injuries and needed to get those right and then just focusing back on parts of my game which I felt like I’d let myself down in. So just trying to work on those, doing those extra bits outside of the training times and I feel like I’ve come around again and I’m feeling fresh.”

Murphy’s storming end to the season with Leinster put him right in the mix for Ireland selection again. His all-action performance during the 30-18 demolition of Ulster in the Pro12 semi-final at the RDS was a much-welcomed return to form:

“Yeah, the Ulster game was a big game. We’d taken a bit of a flogging off them a few weeks before and getting an opportunity, starting at seven, and having that home crowd behind us, it just felt like a big occasion and everything kind of clicked. I felt fresh on the day, got down to my work and it worked well.”

Making 25 tackles that night certainly did his Ireland chances no harm?

“Something along those lines, yeah,” Murphy responded.

“In the area of the back row you probably will be involved in a lot of collisions anyway. It’s just one of those things, they started stacking up and before I knew it on 70 minutes I felt like I’d put in a serious shift, like the body was starting to go on me.

“It’s just one of those things, having that bit of energy and being in the right place at the right time and trying to get involved as much as possible. It just showed up in the tackles after.”

Now, Murphy is gearing up for battle with Francois Louw, one of the smartest backrow operators on the world stage.

Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

The 25-year-old came up against ​Louw ​during this season’s Champions Cup pool stages and is expecting another big shift from the ​Bath openside:

“He’s a great all-round player. He’s good with ball in hand and very strong with his tackle to release and then on to the ball. Watching him at the World Cup and then playing against him​, ​he’s one of those players that can turn the tide in a game.

​”​There was a clip of South Africa v Japan ​[at the World Cup]​ where they were on the Japanese were on their line and the ball was overthrown. Louw caught it and made a 50-metre break off it. That changed the tide a bit and South Africa scored within a few minutes of that.

“So it’s those kind of things, it’s international Test rugby. You can’t give anyone any easy outs or give anyone a break. I’m sure they won’t do that to us so we’ve got to make sure we don’t do that to them.”

Schmidt has spoken this week of the “fear factor” that All Blacks squads experienced while touring South Africa in the past. So, will fear focus Irish minds this afternoon?

“I wouldn’t say fear,” Murphy replied. “We definitely have respect for the Springboks. They’re third in the world, third at the World Cup, they’re an exceptional side. Like us they’ve a few fresh faces as well and there’s a lot of excitement in our camp, I think, people who haven’t played in green before and as a squad we’ve gelled together really well in the last two weeks.

“It’s an excitement in that we’ve never beaten the Springboks before, Ireland have played them three times in Newlands and never managed a win.

“So it’s history on the line and it’s definitely driving on that bit of energy in training and everything and hopefully we can translate that into the game.”

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