'It's nice to be able to focus on one position': Jordi Murphy revelling in run at 7

The former Leinster man is hoping to make his presence felt ‘in the thick of things’ against his former club this weekend.

FLEXIBILITY IS FINE and a utility player is nothing but an asset for coaches, but Jordi Murphy is thoroughly enjoying the chance to rest his focus with one position this season.

The Ulster back row was a key component of Ireland and Leinster’s success last season, initially popping up as a conspicuous gamechanger wearing number 20 and then finding himself playing number 8 in all three European knockout rounds for his native province.

Leinster's Jordi Murphy Murphy played at number 8 in last year's Champions Cup final. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

He is capable of excelling in all three back row positions, but he has been able to devote his full attention to the number 7 shirt on provincial duty this season.

“It’s just been great to have been injury free and playing in the one position the entire season,” Murphy said at a Kingspan media day ahead of Saturday’s clash with Leinster at the Kingspan stadium.

“I love the fact that I’ve been able to play 6, 7 and 8 and it’s gotten me into a lot of places in the past with some coaches that have liked the versatility, but sometimes I feel like that may have harmed me when it came down to 50/50 decisions and they picked someone who played more consistently in the one position.

“It’s been great that I’ve been able to play that seven position and it’s great that Dan has put me there week in and week out and it’s been a really exciting year and we just want to build on it again and again.”

Jordi Murphy Kingspan delivers high efficiency, low carbon building solutions and is the naming rights partner and front of jersey sponsor of Ulster Rugby. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Murphy, who turned 28 this week, says it’s tough to describe precisely how different the three positions are, but broadly speaking he is expected to carry far more when wearing number 8 and has much more set-piece responsibility on the blindside.

I just like getting into the thick of things, the not-so-nice part of it, the rucking and everything, I just like it.”

While the nature of the work may change though, the workload doesn’t necessarily get cut away for Murphy. With Ulster he must still prepare to cover another position as contingency and his versatility is still a quality Joe Schmidt is putting to use. But as he prepares to face his former club (Saturday, kick-off 17.15) again, he speaks like a man enjoying the rhythm. 

It’s definitely one of those things that I wouldn’t take away, but it’s nice to be able to focus on one position for a while.”

Outside of his performances, Murphy feels he has grown in other ways since moving north. In a Leinster side brimming with Lions and internationals there must be a temptation to blend in and keep focus solely on your own role. Murphy entered Ulster as  a marquee signing and he has had to somewhat coax himself to fulfil all aspects of what he feels that entails.

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Jordi Murphy Murphy in action against Leicester in January. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

“Not on the pitch, but externally I think I’ve grown quite a lot as a leader.

“You come from Leinster and you’ve got like 20 internationals and then you come to Ulster and in the last couple of years they’ve had like five or six so I suppose bringing that kind of experience and leadership to the group.

“While it may not have been the most comfortable thing for me at the start I’ve been in the professional game for a bit longer than some of the boys so it’s just about expressing myself better and be a bit more of a leader to them.”

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